Little Mirrors

Q Our two oldest kids seem obsessed about the possessions that their friends have, and how their own compare.

— G.L.

Troy, Michigan

A George: The first place to look, when dealing with kids, is in the mirror. Often, you'll see your kids there. Our children will tend to pick up our virtues and our vices and show them back to us. Maybe that's why their faults can make us so mad.

As with all the virtues we're trying to instill in our children, we need to model them ourselves. If you're a shopaholic, don't be surprised if your son or daughter doesn't value money. But if you take your kids to help out at a soup kitchen, or to visit the elderly, then they're seeing generosity in action.

Lisette and I recently visited some friends in Atlanta — Alex and Maria Munoz. During our stay, we observed one of their family traditions that gets to the heart of your question.

Lisette: Alex and Maria are committed to teaching their five kids responsibility with money, while giving them a sense of solidarity with the Church and the needy. In order to accomplish this, they've developed an interesting allowance system.

Each of their children receives 25 cents per year of life per week. For example, one of their daughters is eight and receives $2 per week. But the amount is also adjusted for how they've behaved and how they've completed their chores. A deduction is taken for each infraction, usually five cents for the smaller children and ten cents for the older. After any subtractions, 10% of the remaining balance is put aside to give away and 10% is put into savings. The portion set aside for donations goes into the next Sunday's collection and to other special projects.

After all these deductions, the remaining money is for the kids to spend as they see fit.

How has this system helped the Munoz kids grow in virtue? Alex and Maria gave us some examples. For instance, the oldest daughter is regularly generous with the younger kids. She comes to their aid from her own allowance if they're short of money for something important to them.

Another example: Not too long ago the 8-year-old wanted to make a major purchase. Understanding the value of money and what it takes to save it up, she wrote down a pro and con list to help her decide whether to go ahead and spend the money. Talk about responsible spending.

George:While Lisette and I were with them, Alex and Maria held a get together at their home to raise funds for the Church in Cuba. Each of the children was given things to do — from preparing food to cleaning up the house — with the understanding that they were playing a role in helping the needy in Cuba.

Our visit to the Munoz family got us to thinking about what we could do to help our son grow up to be responsible and generous. One thing we know: We'll start by looking in the mirror first.

George and Lisette de los Reyes host The Two Shall Be One on EWTN.