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Teaching Children to Let Go of Things

teaching charity to children

It seems no matter how closely we keep an eye on the stuff we have the piles of crayons and books, toys and stuffies the piles seem to get bigger and bigger as the months pass. Birthdays and Christmas exaggerate the quantities of things (as do well-meaning Grandparents).

The easiest, at least in the onset, is to simply remove toys and items when your child isn’t around. This is probably easiest when they are little and don’t really know what they haven’t played with and outgrow simple toys quickly. The downfall is that, as they age, they will know things are missing and may get upset.

Ridding the house of the over abundance of toys is essential but it can be hard. When we combine ridding the house with charity it can be a much easier process. If we want to teach our children how to be charitable it’s best to bring them in on the project and allow them to help.

His Possessions, Not Ours

In a Facebook parenting group I’m in there was talk once that children’s possessions are theirs and if they don’t want to give them up, so be it. We, as the adults need to respect this and deal with the clutter. The obvious flaw here is that, like all of us, children are naturally selfish. We must model and teach how to have a charitable heart because most of us are not naturally inclined to give.  I think it is important for children to realize that what they have is a blessing from God and ultimately it is our temporarily.  As we model this the Holy Spirit will work in them also prompting them to be charitable too

It’s also important that we teach our children how little value we should place on possessions. We cannot be like the rich young ruler of the Gospels and allow our possessions to be such a big part of our lives that we would chose them over what is really important. This lesson was driven home to me when we lost our home in 2012 to a fire. As parents we tend to think we need the more stuff for our children to learn and grow when in reality they can thrive with a few quality toys, plenty of time outside and the local library.

Lead By Example

One way to get your children to understand how to let go of things is to watch you let go. Do you get overly upset if something breaks? Do you have an attic full of stuff you really don’t use but won’t part with? Leading by example means letting go of things and releasing the emotional attachment you have to possessions so they don’t hold you back. Practically speaking, here are some tips to lead by example:

  • Let your children see you sorting through clothing and household goods to donate
  • Don’t get over emotional at the loss of an object (being upset it okay but don’t go over the top)
  • Mention how good it feels to give away things to charity to bless others

Make Giving a Family Affair

When it’s time to take a trip to the mission let the kids help with packing, loading and unloading even at small ages. It might not be any of their items they load/unload but let them carry a bag with a shirt or shoes in it. Pray over the items before you take them to the drop off location and have the children join in the prayer. The more they see the cheerful giving up of stuff the more, the more they realize it is part of their lifestyle, the easier it will be when it’s their turn to give.

eaching children to let go of things

Giving To Bless

Always talk about why you are giving things away. You were blessed with it, now you are blessing others. You don’t need 15 sweaters so you are giving away 5 of them so someone who doesn’t have any can have one. Yes, you might have selected those 5 because they don’t fit you well, you’re tired of them or out dated your heart should be giving from a place of wanting to bless. Also, you should be giving not just the stuff that is junk in your eyes but stuff that will be of value to someone else.

Giving Away Their Things

When children are young, three or four you’ll have to have heavy influence on the process.

  1. While they are away or napping (or perhaps with them) make a few piles “Like Alot” “Like A Little” “Don’t Like”. Separate their things into piles based on what you think/how often the use them.
  2. Explain to them that they are ready to start giving their stuff away as a bless others. At this age, all three piles are likely of equal importance to them so help them pick a few items to donate.
  3. Let them help bag up the items, pray over them and be sure the child goes with you when you drop off the items.

As your children grow they can make their own piles and with your help determine what they want to donate. You can even make a game out of it with Stations designated as “Like Alot” “Like A Little” “Don’t Like” so they can allocate items in each bin or station. As they continue to understand this process in more depth, the piles can go to “Give” “Keep”  “Trash” and later on “Give” “Keep” “Trash”and “Sell” if necessary.

As the parent, you must be willing to compromise, not because you’re letting them “win” but because this is a learning experience. If you know they really don’t use something but they want to hang on to it you can compromise by putting it on a shelf or in a closet. If they don’t ask for it more than once in the next month or two it’s a donate. You can walk your child through this when the time is right.

Letting go of possessions can be difficult for children, but as we model this in our lives, include them in the process and help them see it is a blessing it will make it easier as they grow.

Other Tips

  • You can also soften this process by explaining that they are getting rid of “baby toys” since they are a “big kid.” Just don’t turn it negative by saying “You aren’t a baby, why do you want baby toys.” Explain that these toys are more suited for kids smaller than them and giving them away will be blessing smaller kids.
  • Let them give a “Like Alot” possession to a friend or another child at church.
  • Let them make the choice between one or the other if there are two similar toys. One keep, one give.
  • Things do not have feelings. This is hard for children to understand, especially with movies like Toy Story and other animated movies but things do not feel. They are not sad to leave or happy to stay. They are a tool for us to bless others.
  • This should not be a traumatic experience. If your child is too attached perhaps storing things in the attic or garage is a compromise but their stuff should never be allowed to overtake their room or the house.

 

How do you teach your children to let go of their things?

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Comments

  1. It’s hard to find well-informed people for this subject, but
    you sound like you know what you’re talking about! Thanks

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