Tired of Kids Who Want, Want, Want? Raising Children Who Give Back

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A recent viral craze has taken the social media landscape by storm—it’s called the Cold Water Challenge.

If you haven’t heard about it yet, it goes something like this: You’re nominated by a friend or family member on social media to give to a charity of your choice. Sounds altruistic, right?

If you decide to take a video of yourself jumping into cold water you only have to donate $10 to a charity of your choice. If you choose not to jump into a body of cold water within 24 hours, record it on video, and post it on a social media site, you have to give $100 to a charity of your choice.

I appreciate the idea behind it—giving money to charity. But is it really teaching us that giving to charity is a good thing? Jumping in cold water to avoid giving money seems backwards to me.

As parents, I want my children to understand the value of giving—but with a cheerful heart. My pastor and good friend, Ted Cunningham teaches the value of prioritizing money in this order:

1.     Earn

2.     Give (Tithe your earnings)

3.     Save

4.     Spend

My friend, Travis Brawner teaches this principle to his kids using “give, save, spend jars.” His children earn money around the house by doing chores and other projects. Once they receive their “earnings” (this is not an allowance as it doesn’t teach them the value of hard work) they put 10% in the give jar, and an additional percentage in the save jar. Whatever is left, they put in the spend jar to buy what they want “with a merry heart.”[i]

I love this idea because it teaches our kids the biblical value of giving their “firstfruits.” He told me he and his wife just recently added a fourth jar called the generosity jar between the save and spend jars. The generosity jar represents offerings beyond their 10% tithe and is based on Acts 4:32-37, where the church shares mercifully the monies God provided with those in need.

There may be some who will protest with me on this, claiming they don’t have $100. But it raises a more important question:

Are our “jars” and how we handle money really in order? As parents we’re teaching our kids how to handle money the way we do.

If you’re nominated for the Cold Water Challenge, warm up your heart, take $100 out of your budget for the month and use it as an opportunity to teach your children the value of generosity—even if it means sacrificing a meal, a new toy, a movie, or a new piece of technology to do so. I can think of no greater way to raise kids who value hard work, generosity, and develop a heart for others.

Here are a few ideas for your $100:

1.     If you’re nominated, use it as a platform to promote a charity and give honor to those in need

2.     Find a charity or ministry to donate to together with your children

3.     Do some research with your family on what the charity is about (who are they serving, why, what will your money go to)

4.     Have your children give some of their own money

5.     If your kids don’t have money or won’t experience the sacrifice monetarily, have them donate a toy, or if they’re physically capable of missing a meal, fast together for those in need you’re donating to

6.     Perhaps take a family visit to meet people in the charity and learn more about them

7.     Start using jars to teach your children the value of generosity

Everything we earn comes from God. For that reason, let’s first give back to Him our best, not what’s left over—and model for our children that true joy comes not in spending on ourselves, but giving to those in need.


Joshua Straub, Ph.D. is the President and Co-Founder of the Connextion Group, a company designed to build relational connections between generations. As an advocate for parenting in the 21st century, his passion is raising the next generation to love and relate well. Josh speaks and writes on the two key ingredients necessary for building healthy families: intentional parenting and a loving marriage. He is the coauthor of God Attachment and The Quick Reference Guide to Counseling Teenagers. Josh wakes up each day striving to love others better, starting with his wife Christi and their son, Landon. You can follow him on Twitter @joshuastraub or Facebook.


[i] Ecclesiastes 9:7