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Ways to raise generous children: Stress examples, the gifts they have

Parents are urged to share their good feelings about giving, helping

Photo Credits: Illustration by Abigail Witte
Raising a generous child is a challenge in a society that constantly teaches children to want more and more things for themselves. Our culture stresses the constant need for more and better material possessions.

A key factor in teaching children to be generous is to let them see their parents giving.

Today many donations to the parish offertory may be made electronically, monthly, quarterly or via mail. Children may never see their parents give at church. The Stewardship Awareness and Leadership Development program of the archdiocese urges parents to talk with children about charitable gifts. If you would like to increase your giving, you might even ask your children about ways the family budget could be adjusted so that there is more to share with God.

Most important, share your own good feelings about helping and giving.


• Challenge children to make a list of all God’s gifts to them.

Regularly compliment children on their gifts — simple things like nice handwriting — and offer an idea on how they can be grateful or share that gift with someone else. Encourage children to recognize the talents of other people in their lives.

• Teach children to be grateful to God for the blessings He has given us.

Ask them to name something for which they are thankful. Have children write a thank-you letter to God, telling Him why His gifts are so special to them and what the child will do with those gifts. Discuss the poor and needy. Talk about how God has trusted us to use our gifts to help those who have less. Read the Judgment of the Nations (Matthew 25:31-46) together. Encourage children to pray for those in need.

• Show children how stewardship has built our Church.

Tell children the history of your parish and the role stewardship played in building up the parish as it is today. Talk about the building up of the Church throughout the world and the role stewardship played in the cathedrals, hospitals, schools and churches that we have today.

• Help children to recognize that stewardship is something we do all the time.

Every decision we make about how we use our time or treasure is a stewardship decision. Discuss the concept of tithing — giving 10% back to God. Discuss the difference between something we need and something we want. We may need soccer shoes to be part of the team but having the most expensive or popular brand is only a want not a need.

Jeannette Hamann, director of stewardship and liturgy at Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish in O’Fallon and the parent of two young adults, said that as parents, one of the most important steps of modeling a stewardship way of living is attending weekly Mass. “In all they do, parents should strive to show their children what an active and vibrant faith life looks like,” Hamann said. “Children should be asked and encouraged to join their parents in some of their stewardship activities.”

Stewardship is using our time, talent and treasure to build up God’s Kingdom. All three elements are equally important, reports Hamann.

“Only giving one or two aspects makes us incomplete,” Hamann said. “It is only in giving of our entire self does one come to realize the graciousness and mercy of our Lord.”

Stewardship entails a process of continually renewing and recommitting oneself to God.

“Stewardship is seeing and living as Jesus intends. What you are is God’s gift to you … what you become is your gift to God,” Hamann said. “We are a vibrant parish, where believers are actively living as disciples of Jesus Christ — by honoring Mary — and continuing her mission in bringing Christ to the world, by living ‘A Stewardship Way of Life.’”

Jeannette’s tips for fostering stewardship in children:

• Participating at Mass and by receiving the sacraments regularly.

• Providing their children with a vision of a sharing, generous, accountable way of life (1992 U.S. Bishops Pastoral Letter, Stewardship: A Disciple’s Response).

• Instilling an attitude of gratitude by reminding them that all we have, are and will be is a gift from God.

• Making prayer a part of the daily family life, especially prayers of gratitude.

• Educating them in their Catholic faith, teaching them that they are part of the Universal Church.

• Encouraging their children to give a proportionate amount of their allowance, cash gifts and earnings to the parish and/or other charitable organizations.

• Engaging in and participating in their parish’s annual stewardship renewal.

• Associating the need to be good stewards with worldwide and local events. Children can become more cognizant of society around them by learning what is just and unjust. As they consider their own stewardship now at a young age, they will have the strong faith foundation to make a difference in their adult lives.

• Setting an example by helping neighbors is another was to instill stewardship. Bring your children to visit older adults in the neighborhood and bring food or other items they may need. Offer to cut the lawn of an elderly neighbor, with your children helping with the chore.

>> Benefits

Consider the benefits of teaching children stewardship:

• Stewardship can help build self-esteem. The advertisements that children hear in the commercial world often carry the underlying, subtle message that you are not good enough the way you are and therefore you need to acquire a certain product to make you acceptable. Children need to hear that God has already blessed them with all the gifts and talents that they will need and they have enough to share.

• Stewardship can make children happier. Children are bombarded with materialistic messages that often lead to a sense of entitlement and to frustration and dissatisfaction with life. In contrast, stewardship encourages an attitude of gratitude.

• Stewardship teaches children the difference between needs and wants.

• Stewardship prepares children for their adult role in the Church. Stewardship is not just a service project that they must do before they can be confirmed or graduate. Stewardship is a way of life. It is the way a good Christian lives every day of every year.

Find more information at www.archstl.org/stewardship

Source: Stewardship Office

>> Small gestures add up

It’s important for children to see that even a small gesture makes a big difference in someone’s day, according to Natalie Lauck, a Queen of All Saints parishioner and parent of children ages 6 and 10.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re 5 or 15 in high school doing service projects, it’s important to start when you’re young to help make a difference in your community,” Lauck said.

Lauck and her husband, Aaron, make a habit of talking about kindness and generosity in their family. “We try to nourish having a servant heart at a young age. One small action can make a really big difference and make someone’s day. Even though they’re little, there’s something they can do.”

“We try to make it a part of their lives, to serve others.”

It’s easier for her children if it’s something personable and relatable, Lauck said. At Christmas, for example, her daughter, Collins, shopped for a family, purchasing the toys and necessities with money she earned and collected. “She understands that there are children out there that don’t have as much as she does,” Lauck said. “I try to make it so she is as active as possible and it’s close to her heart. I let her take the reins. It means more for her to decide and choose than for me to say this is what we’re going to do.”

Collins is a kindergarten student at St. Margaret Mary Alacoque School in south St. Louis County. She has participated in pageants and — remembering the lessons her parents taught her about the importance of giving back to her community — she has made good use of her cash winnings. Earlier this year, along with the help of a handful of friends and family, she purchased and collected 85 pairs of skid-proof fuzzy socks to donate to Nazareth Living Center’s skilled nursing unit.

Collins delivered the socks along with signed Easter cards for the residents and some treats for the nurses. Collins previously donated nearly $600 in gift cards to a group of foster families at Christmas.

“I just want to put a smile on their faces,” Collins said of her generosity.

It was important for Collins to deliver the items to the nursing home, Lauck said, though Collins couldn’t visit patients because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Laucks’ son, Connor, also has taken the stewardship lessons to heart, Lauck said.

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