Children should be poor
The typical situation is two tykes playing while their moms talk. One child has a truck, the other wants it. The mom of the owner jumps in, saying “oh, he needs to learn to share”, and makes the one holding the truck give it to the one who wants it. The mom thinks she is teaching her little one to share.
But neither child has learned a darn thing, except that you can ask for things and get them.
It is important that children learn to share, but everything in the proper order. The Creation story lays out a pattern we can use as a guide to tells us what the new baby should experience, in what order. Sharing is usually taught out of order, with no base, so it is experienced so superficially that it is worse than useless for the children.
The right order: first comes the lesson of Work. The joy of Work is the resultant property. Enjoying your property that you have worked for is not selfish nor greedy — it is natural and God made us this way. Then, property accrues into surplus, and surplus is shared. So the child who owns property can easily experience the joy of giving property to the poor, when he shares his toy truck with a boy who has none.
That which is never experienced as property cannot be truly given; that which was not worked for is seldom experienced as property. Property from hard work naturally feels sacred to the worker.
In a perfect world — in God’s world — all workers would be wealthy. But some aren’t. Some are poor through their own fault and some are poor through no fault of their own.
Needing is poverty. Psychologically speaking, I mean, the experience of a need is the poverty experience. So the child who feels like he needs the truck is in poverty, at that moment, no matter he should feel it or not. Whatever is the response to his outcry of poverty will teach him whether to work or plead in response to need.
The natural result of refusing to share is wealthy loneliness. Some adults are sick enough to actually feel quite happy isolated in their wealth, but children often have not yet learned such pathology. The child who refuses to share needs to experience the natural result of that decision — he plays alone. So he will share, not because the lawgiver forced him to, but because he recognizes he needs to be in community.
Children also need to feel what it is like to have no truck, and be refused. This, he experiences as the pain of being in poverty and not being loved. If he feels this at the right time in his life — big parenting if — he will not want others to feel that, and this experience of poverty will teach him to share. But only at the right time.
(Notice we are not saying that children should be literally poor. There is no virtue in that, such that it ought to chosen. That many people have learned much from poverty is simply a testament to learning, not poverty. All children should value work, value wealth, and then enjoy giving it away. In that order.)
So moms and dads who force their little ones to share are not only not accomplishing what they want, they are inuring them from reality.
Children should be rich
The Old Testament accepts the assumption that property results from work, and assumes that property will be passed on within the family. Any social or political policy which disrupts this pattern produces a sick society.
The acquisition of property is twofold: inheritance and work. The child has a natural need for property which is not in itself corrupt, but because he is entirely dependant on his parents his first property is by grace alone. He recieves grace without knowing it. “Mine.”
The Old Testament also takes the view that the most valuable property is the land, and it is a gift from God. The land is given to a “tribe”, which is an extended family, or clan.
Parents should arrange many small inheritances of family property for the child beginning at an early age and hold him responsible for its stewardship. This needs to be more traditionalist than just buying him toys, and more specific than just the typical “every child needs responsibilities.” No, every child needs property.
The ideal is for a child to “inherit” property from the family at an early age and learn the sacredness of the patrimony, while creating property of his own by work.
Some object to paying a child for chores. They argue that the work of the household should be shared simply because it is there, and the child should be taught to do chores simply to “help out”.
Really, both are true, and are quite different moral issues. The child should be paid for chores because he needs to feel the value of his work and
If the two are confused the child will learn that chores are, well, “chores” — drudgery – and he may look on work forever as a necessary pain. Most adults are like this — alienated.
But the child must experience work as effort which produces value for himself, as well as beauty, utility, and help for those he loves.
It is not important to directly teach children to share. They will choose to share when they experience the natural result of not sharing. Sharing is a virtue that grows out of an understanding of the meaning of property.