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Sunday, May 29, 2011

It’s My Money!

We recently established a “giving fund” that the kids’ contribute to from their own money.  I expected them to be excited – to have some tangible impact and personal connection to the causes we’ll support as a family.  What I didn’t expect was the strong feelings invoked in my 5-year-old, Abby.

And I’m not talking about positive feelings.

When it was time to put in her dollar, she wailed and moaned.  With her fists clenched and her eyebrows raised, she raged,

“You can’t do this!  It’s my money!”

You would have thought we were cutting off her right arm.   Her older siblings tried to convince her she really doesn’t need the dollar (and it could help another kid who might not have food or clothes) but she still didn’t care.  The queen wasn’t parting with the crown jewels any time soon.

Being the patient mother I am, I ripped the dollar out of her hand and threw it in the pile.  She put her head down in a final, contrived pout.  I thought to myself, I’d hate to get stuck on a deserted island with this chick.  She'd take every last crumb for herself.

I know, I shouldn’t be so hard on her.  She’s young.  She has time to learn that the world doesn’t revolve around her wants and needs.  But I also know that gratitude isn’t just going to appear on her doorstep one day.  She’s not going to “grow into it” over time or voluntarily relinquish her self-protective nature.

We have to be intentional. Sooner, not later.

Several days after Abby’s rant, I stumbled upon a post by Amy Sullivan -- How To Raise Selfish Kids.  I laughed out loud.  Been there.  Done that.  One of the reasons I follow Amy’s blog is because she’s passionate about cultivating a radical attitude of giving in her children.  And as I read along, I realize my heart wants the same thing for my own children.

But I have so far to go.  Some days, I act a lot like Abby.

Baby steps.


Michelle DeRusha@Graceful said...

I'm laughing at this one -- we've had a similar discussion (argument) here at our house. It's ironic -- I have a guest post ready to go for this Wednesday about how to begin to cultivate an attitude of gratitude in kids...and no sooner had I emailed it when we had a cataclysimic ingratitude fest here (which resulted in me hauling a bunch of toys from my kids' rooms into the minivan to donate to the GoodWill in a fury!). I'll be writing about that incident this week, too. Just goes to show you, two steps forward, one step back in this gratitude cultivation (or maybe one step forward, two steps back...for me especially?).

tcsoko said...

I have witnessed similar tantrums in our church office - a two year old staring down his Mum when told to put his offering in an envelop 'But why, its mine!'. We big kids sometimes do the same, even if it is quietly!

Laura@OutnumberedMom said...

Oh, the little queen -- I love it! I'm still chuckling from both your post and Michelle's comment up there. Can't wait to read her post.

You're right -- baby steps. And I love your honesty. Somedays, sometimes, I am like the queen.

Shanda said...

Be patient with yourself and your children. Much as we'd like, and much we we try to model the behavior we want for the, they have their own minds. It is hard as I have two 20 year olds now that seem so selfish to me and are not they way I raised them to be. But they belong to God and I choose to believe they will look back later and choose the life we raised them to live.!
I did have to laugh though at your story :) said...

So funny. Not really. I did something similar with my kids when they were younger... I'd give them a weekly allowance for chores, etc., and then take back a little bit for taxes (reality-check #1) and a little bit for charity/tithe (reality check #2). They were much more confused and upset about the taxes than they were about the "giving back to charity" part.

David Rupert said...

We gave our kids three quarters. One to save. One to spend. and one to give to Church.

One son blew through all three quarters in the first day.

The other kept all three.

Sigh. We try.

Amy Sullivan said...

Thanks for the link, and better than the link, thanks for your story!

"You can't do this! It's my money!" Oh, I know those words because it wasn't my kids' attitudes that forced me to start battling selfishness, it was my own.

I love what you say about being intentional. Our kids aren't going to wake up and care about others. We need to lead them to that way of thinking, and sometimes it's hard and sometimes it stinks, but I think it's a battle worth fighting.

Thanks again, Susan!

Laura said...

Oh, ouch! Your last lines really hit home! How many times have I acted the same as your little Abby? Mine, mine, mine!! Maybe I need a giving jar too, Susan :). Thanks for keeping me honest :).

Ann Kroeker said...

I'm enjoying all the comments as well as the post--sounds like a lot of us are trying to figure out the same thing.

Your honesty delights! Great story full of intentionality and humility. :)