Friday, December 28, 2007

Instilling Justice In My Daughter

I know I have very little room to be the preacher on issues of justice. I am trying however to live differently, so that we as a family are participating more in issues of justice as a family.

I also want to insure that I instill this idea in my children, so that they will not be trapped in the pit of consumerism that my wife and I are struggling to break our addictions to.

On Christmas morning my three year old was the most sweet gracious thing on earth telling us that the gift she had just opened was, "just what I always wanted" after every single gift. My 6 year old had other ideas for the day, and we had words early on in the gift unwrapping ceremony.

After about her third turn opening a gift she opened a box of fake nails. It is important to note we refer to our oldest as a "Princess with an Edge" because she lacks interest in a lot of girly things. She would rather like to play Mary in Spiderman or Princess Leia in Star Wars than sit at a vanity and comb her hair. So we knew that the fake nails were not the highlight, but since her sister and her friend who is living with us were both getting them, we felt she should get a set to, so she could participate later in the day when the other girls were getting their nails done.

As she opened the nails she looked at them and stated, "this is not what I wanted at all!" To which I calmly dismissed her from the room, and told her we would speak after the rest of the family finished opening gifts. My wife did not go for my harsh sentence, so we went and talked to her about respect and gratitude.

The event was sharply painful to me, because I knew the internal struggle of her heart that our culture feeds. I needed an intervention to teach her a better world view than I have previously modeled.

So this brings us to her 2008 allowance. We have established an allowance sheet that details 15 tasks that must be completed each week. Each task bears a value of $1. She is also going to support the orphan work of Children's Hope Chest, the organization we are going to Swaziland with. This will be a $24 a month commitment for her which means $6 of her allowance will go to that commitment! The final step comes in mentoring her in HOW we spend the remaining amount she earns each week.

I hope to instill 2 lessons at a balance. One is that God desires to bless us, and secondly is that God desires us to bless others. I want her to find a balance between using her remaining earnings for toys and games she likes, and also using it for being a blessing to others.

I know this is kind of a rambling post (as so many are) but it is my dream and my prayer, that the cycle of consumerist addiction will not be passed on to my children.


Anonymous said...

great idea! We had the exact interaction with our 6 and 3 year old...very interesting.

Kevin J Bowman said...

I am intrigued by having the same problem, with the same age breakdown. I really feel so insignificant to take on an issue like this, when I am so flawed at it myself. I am hooping that the old adage of the teacher learning the most becomes the hallmark of this endeavor.

Niki said...

We also had a similar reaction to a gift, but it was our 3 year old. He thought he knew what was in the box and he was wrong and was very disappointed. He couldn't fake thankfulness to spare his sister's feelings (the giver) and he didn't want the gift. Huge tears spilled out of his eyes and we had "the talk" with him about being thankful.

I think this goes deeper than just teaching justice. I think this is our fault as parents because we set our children up to be this way. Why are we filling in the space under the tree with gifts that we/our children don't need? I think that is what feeds consumerism. They see us do it and they learn the pattern. That's not what Christmas should be about. Why are we giving multiple gifts at all? When we do give a gift, shouldn't it be something that will thrill the recipient since that who the gift is all about? It's not just about having lots of stuff to unwrap, it's about something special to convey our love and gratitude for having the recipient in our life. We teach them with our actions of heaping on the gifts at this time of year because that is what WE learned. I'm questioning the wisdom behind it.

As we recover from consumerist addictions ourselves, we can pass those messages a long to our kids.

Our recovery has been a little more forced this year due to finances being extremely tight, but I think they still received way more than they needed thanks to Grandparents, Aunts and Uncles, etc. We got our kids each 2 gifts, and they absolutely loved what we chose. It was when the pile grew that we saw discontentment rear it's ugly head. We had more fun shopping for necessities together (like new clothes)than we did putting the new toys away. Both are rare occasions.

Like you, we are trying to teach our kids about money. We pay them a commission each month for being part of the family and helping our household run smoothly. $15.00 a week per child is WAY more than we can afford. :D We have the savings banks from Crown Ministries that are the three compartments: Church(Charity), Bank(Savings),and Store (Spending). We are starting with that because it is straightforward and simple. A lot of adults haven't even figured this one out yet. ;) It's a great tool for a minimal investment. I bought one brand new, and the other two at thrift stores. You can probably find them on ebay for super cheap.

Anyway, I feel your frustration. I'm not seeing the correlation with the word justice though. Help me out. That's a word I struggle with because I have a strong sense of Justice and yet I don't see that as one of Jesus' teachings. I'm still thinking on that one...