Recently I was reading a book which talked about how hard it is for millionaires to raise good kids. The author interviewed wealthy men who had all grown up in working class homes, and they learned so many valuable lessons as they worked hard, overcame the odds, learned resiliency and the value of the dollar, as well as how to succeed and fail. And then they all made it big. Now they are raising their own kids in a totally different world. They own mansions, drive fancy cars and go on lovely vacations. Their kids attend private schools and lack for nothing. And these men who had grown up with so little longed for ways that they could teach their own kids some of the invaluable things they had learned because of lack. When they were growing up they often heard, “No” to their requests because their families simply couldn’t afford them. The rich kids, however, rarely hear “No,” because their parents can afford almost anything, and many parents had not learned to say “No” for other, more complex reasons, like “No because you owning a Ferrari at 16 is not consistent with our values.” The problem is, the parents had not taken the time to figure out and teach their values, and so their kids only really value money and the toys it can buy.
These stories struck a nerve because I’ve often thought about this. Now, we are far from being millionaires! But the truth is, we have more money than our parents did and as a result, our kids have more stuff. They travel in nicer cars and experience fewer discomforts. And I actually look forward to the day when we can give them yet more. But I am sure Marvin and I learned things that they might not be learning. My husband, for example, grew up in the West Indies, and learned how to make kites out of old sheets and the veins of palm leaves. He learned the patience of catching butterflies and dissecting bugs. These were the toys. For him, family outings were an occasional treat, whereas our kids go to fun places all the time. Boredom was an occasional dilemma, but our kids express boredom almost every day.
Surely the answer is not to be less successful or to wish poverty on them so that they will learn character.
No, the answer is deeper than that. We have to be clear about our values and then pray for ways to teach them to our kids. If we fail to do this money can easily slip to the center. We cannot allow the lack of it or the abundance of it to become the engine of our lives.
So what do we want? We want them to fear and love God. By fear, I mean respect and awe, a sobriety about who He is, and knowing the importance of obedience. We want them to know that He is at the center and that He is the Creator and the Giver of all things good.
We want them to love people – all people – and to show compassion to those who are in trouble. And so this means having people in our home: people of every size, shape and color. We have rich friends and poor friends; friends with more toys and friends with fewer toys. And we have friends whose accents are so thick our boys lose most of what is said. But they hear and see that God made variety and we’re hoping they see the beauty in that.
And we want them grateful. Grateful for a piece of candy and grateful for a trip to the Caribbean. Grateful for cold water in July and grateful for an Italian soda from Starbucks. Grateful mostly to God but also to people who bless them in little and big ways. Thank you Thank you Thank you; Lord, let that be the mantra of our home.
We want them to know that money is a blessing, and it is also a tool with which to do good.
So what do you value?
I feel like I fail more than I succeed at teaching our kids these standards, so I’m depending on God’s grace to make up for my failures – and other people to take up the slack. I’m realizing we have to be deliberate about instructing them, because sometimes, at the end of a hard day, it’s just easier to say, Yes.