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Raising Right-Minded Kids

I have this friend who works for an
excellent world-wide Christian relief agency. His title – I
kid you not – is Director of Peacebuilding. As in, his job
description reads “bring about world peace.” He lives
in India with his wife, a priest of a small Anglican church there.
Both are originally from Canada, and this is how they are living
out their callings –as global citizens making a difference.
And, by the way, raising their two blond-haired, blue-eyed children
there as well.

The other day, my friend Matt’s son wanted to know the names
of the wealthiest people. They counted down the Forbes Top 15,
noting those wealthy (like Buffet & Gates) who are giving away
their fortunes. They got to #10 before his son asked: "So what
number are we?"

Now, while my friends may live in relative luxury in India –
at least compared to many of the slums they see –
there’s no way by any stretch of the imagination you could
even call them upper-middle-class (sorry guys). But their kids look
around and see what’s possible – in a poverty way
– and consider themselves rich. As, indeed, they are. These
children have even been quoted as saying (at ages 4 and 6)
“We have so many toys and books. We don’t need any

I can guarantee you that those words have never come out of my
girls’ mouths.

It would never occur to either Maddie or
Cora that we’d be anywhere near the top of any sort of
wealthy list. And I wonder how much of it’s because they see
clear evidence of greater wealth around them – mcmansions in
nearby neighborhoods, friends with cars that were made at least in
the last decade, school mates who go on several exotic vacations a
year – and how much of it’s because of how we discuss -
and treat - money and possessions around them.

I can honestly say that I go out of my way not to covet in front of
them. And I’m not a big shopper (any more, since kids!). We
don’t say things like, “Oh, I wish we could get a
bigger house!” or “Gosh I wish we were rich enough to
buy a new (fill in the blank)”. And one of the best pieces of
advice my grandmother gave me when Maddie was born was to try to
refrain from using money as a reason not to do something. Instead,
we say, “That’s not how we choose to spend our
money.” Apparently it took some of her kids quite a while to
realize they were kinda poor (or did you figure it out early on,
Dad?) At our home, we volunteer at a homeless shelter that shows
our girls how truly blessed we are with our own home, and the girls
routinely go through their toys and clothes to pare things down and
give them away to kids in need. They take turns putting our family
offering in the offering box, and the girls cheerfully give money
themselves from their own lemonade stand. Any significant (or
sometimes even insignificant) purchases we make, we discuss the
stewardship aspect with the girls: is buying this book good
stewardship? Or is it better to borrow it from the library if we
won’t read it much? That sort of thing.

So I feel like I’m on the right track to raising grateful and
content kids. But I still hear what sometimes sounds like an
endless barrage of “I wants” coming out of the backseat
of the car sometimes. Maddie hasn’t quite hit that stage
where she HAS to have the newest whatever because all her friends
do, but I can tell she’s not far behind.

Our church has been doing a sermon series recently on “First
Things” – as in, what’s first in my life? What do
I seek first? And what do I teach my children to seek first? And I
keep thinking that contentment is the other side of that
“first things” coin. So I’ve been mulling this
over for a while, and wondering how to make it fresh and alive for
the girls.

Any secrets to pass on here – any nuggets of wisdom to offer
me? I’m genuinely interested. How do I turn my child into one
who’s honestly surprised we’re not right next to Bill
Gates on that Forbes list – who feels rich and blessed, with
a cup that runneth over?


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