Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Random Tales About the Quest for Stewardship II

Working teens. Some of our parenting is tight. Some not and Dad travels a lot. I probably gave my kids alot more freedom than most parents around us. Sometimes I regretted it. But sometimes learning by trial and error is more effective than telling kids what to do and what not to do. Sometimes a child experiencing a little pain or disappointment because of a choice them made alone is more effective than the punishment or discipline of a parent. The parent's not associated w/the correction when they fail. (Too much dog training but it applies) Shy, obedient, dependent-for-direction kids learn to trust themselves. Mom and Dad didn't make it happen. They made a good choice without direction from someone else. They survived.

The down side is that often the consequences of learning by trial and error are far greater than consistant compassionate discipline. You discipline to give a child a taste of greater consequences hoping to train them to make wise choices to avoid the greater consequences. But your goal isn't for them to be afraid of making mistakes or taking risks or interacting with lots of different people and situations. Your goal is to have thinking kids making wise choices in any situation. You want them to be able to think on their own. You have to consider how your children (and students) learn. You can teach by trial and error and discovery but you have to control the situation in such a way that they actually learn and succeed without hanging themselves and without someone hauling you to court for negligence. Sometimes it backfires. Start little! Start early! But this is discipline, not stewardship. Maybe they're related.

So here we are. Working teens. It's healthy for them to work but they really don't need that money for day to day expenses and there isn't anything they're motivated to save for. They learn the connection between working and earning. They learn to deal with customers and work for a boss who isn't family. I can urge them to save but they worked hard to earn the money they earned and it's theirs, not mine. I want them to make choices and experience consequences while they're still under my roof. They don't ask for money. That's a good thing - maybe. But as parents, we no longer control a valuable motivational resource. Ok, too much dog training.

Saving would be a better choice than having daily access to all that hard-earned money. They could save to pay their way through college but going to college is more our choice than theirs so not a big motivator. They earn more money than they need but not enough to be financially independent**. (They never ran away. Thank God!) They earne just enough to allow each of them to live in a house of 7 with a little more financial independence than younger siblings. They never asked for money in high school. Had they saved in high school, they wouldn't have asked for as much in college.

For one of my children, in particular, having money didn’t teach her stewardship. It did, however, make her one of the very best shoppers you will ever know. By the time she was 20, she knew all the mistakes you can make when you shop. When her siblings go clothes shopping they bring her. They swear that the best deals you'll ever see randomly appear on the racks when she walks into a store. Buying things 75% off that you know you'll have to buy full price is wisdom. But buyer BEWARE! Just buying things because they're on sale thinking "some day I'll use this," will fill your house with STUFF you don't need. Clutter is anything you don't want, need or use - anything that just takes up space. Having what you need and only what you need isn't, in itself, stewardship***. Having everything you need with enough to give away might be, if you're giving things away.

But, would you believe it? There's a down side to giving! This particular shopping child is also a Giver - with a capital G, like her father and grandmother before her. The child brings random stuff home out of the goodness of her heart and returns to her apartment and we all look at her bags of love and generosity and sigh because now we have stuff we don't need or won't use we run out of people to give it to. And we want to cry out to my sweet, giving, shopping-for-entertainment, creative-but-bored (& perhaps lonely) child, "STOP BUYING!! STOP, STOP, STOP!!! But just talking doesn’t help. She has a room mate now whose faith and life choices she respects and who lives very frugally. That helps!

* Some of my other kids spend very little of the money they earn. They save it or (buy books). Nobody even had to ask or coerce them to save, they just don't spend money for much.
**Sometimes you can earn too much to qualify for school scholarships.
***Google "hoarding". Don't get too paranoid but they've tied it to mental disorders.

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