Monday, December 25, 2006

Teaching generosity?

I don't know why I didn't think of this before...well I did think of it, I don't know why I don't do it.

I give Brian and Andrew allowances. Part of their money though is put into a savings account (which they cannot touch until I'm not sure when) and part is put into a "present account."* They are only allowed to spend that money on presents for other people.

When Carl moved in he was sixteen and the boys were six and ten (Brian turn six after we decided to take Carl but before the licensing process was complete.) I did not think that it was necessary or appropriate to do that for Carl. I let him handle his entire allowance as he saw fit.

After having three kids here though who don't give presents I have decided two things.

1. Whatever the reason it is NOT that they are simply ungenerous people. One of my readers emailed that it was due to being in "survival mode." I think that is at least partly right. I think though there is more than that. I do think that part of it is the emotional risk that we take when we give a gift. (I know about that. I told David he could exchange his present if he wanted, and I was excessively pleased when he decided that he wanted to keep it.)

2. The foster kids, at whatever age, need for me to do what I do for Brian and Andrew. (I offered last year to stop withholding for Andrew. He told me that he prefers for me to do it this way.) They need me to provide them with funds that they may spend on presents and only on presents. For at least the time they are here, the issue of buying presents will be separated from issues of what they can get/do for themselves. I don't know what affect it will have on them long-term. Perhaps none. But I will give it a try.

By the way, when Carl acted this way I was upset and angry, even to the point of tears. It was one of those trigger things. I'm clearly better now as David not having anything makes me feel just a little sad. I am not hurt and angry; I am more interested in trying to understand and hoping that there is a way to help future youth deal with this issue.

*The savings account is a real account in the bank. The present account is a number kept in my head or, when I am really organized, on a piece of paper. They have $10/month in the present account, and sometimes I have added a little to it at Christmas. Keeping in mind the number of people in their immediate family, and the expectation that they will give both birthday and Christmas presents, they do have to do some careful budgeting.


  1. I guess that's a bit surprising to me. The child I hosted from Russia was so proud to give things to others. He had never had anything to give away before. One day we went for a boat ride and lunch at my friend's -- at the end of the day he gave my friend an I Spy book, gave her husband my sunglasses, and gave her son a used up disposable camera. Not very thrilling gifts, but he was so proud to have belongings he could share.

    I know that one of the boys I went to committee for was very hyper-focused on belongings. But that might be because in his foster home all of the toys and things belonged to the bio-kids. The foster kids could use them, but they had nothing of their own. Anyway, I can see how he may have been unwilling to give gifts.

    I think your present account sounds like a good idea. It teaches the kids that giving is a good thing to do.

  2. off-topic but I wanted to wish you happy holidays. Peace, my friend.


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