If you are committed to teaching your kids how the world operates, you should be teaching them about money.

You can use financial principles to teach everything from math problems to social issues. That’s because money is about values, relationships, choices and self-worth.

And while teaching your kids important values to guide their lives is of the utmost importance, when all is said and done those values are more likely to be caught than taught.

You have to live what you teach.

If there is one thing that will ruin your kids’ lives, it’s greed. Teach them while they’re young how to pull the drain plug on greed, and you will have prepared them in a very important way to not only survive, but to also thrive in the real world.

Lesson for Kids: When you give, you defeat your enemy greed

Do you ever sit back and think of all the things you want? It is very easy for kids (adults, too) to concentrate on all the stuff they really, really want. It might be things that your friends have or stuff you see on television. It is hard not to want everything you see because we live in a time when there are so many cool things.

And have you noticed this? The minute you get that great new backpack or cute bracelet, something even better catches your eye. It’s easy to fall into a trap where the more you have, the more you want. And the more you get the less satisfying any of it becomes. It’s like an itch you just can’t seem to reach it’s there and it just won’t go away.

The feeling of desire, of wanting everything you can think of is called greed. Greed is not a good thing. In fact, it’s like a very bad disease. It starts small but if left to grow it will take over your life. Greed will make you a very miserable person. Greed causes temper tantrums and makes people self-centered and arrogant. And it is very sneaky.

You know that twinge of envy you felt when your best friend showed you her cool new phone? Or when another friend said really loud at lunch how her dad is buying her a brand new car for her 16th birthday? Multiply that feeling by 10 and you’ll have a good idea what full-blown greed feels like. It’s not good.

The problem with greed is that it drives us to do things that are hazardous to our futures. Greed says it’s OK to have everything we want now and to figure out how to pay for it later. Greed is something everyone has to deal with at one time or the other, and the sooner you can learn how to defeat that enemy, the better off and happier you will be.

The antidote for greed is giving away part of the three T's: your time, your talent and your treasure. Everyone, no matter how young or poor, possesses all three.

Time. You get 24 hours every day; 10,080 minutes or 604,800 seconds every week.

Talent. This is what you can do. Everyone has special talents, things they are good at doing.

Treasure. This is what you have; your possessions. It’s your money, and also your toys, clothes, collections: everything that you own.

Are you bewildered? If you have never been a “giver” it may seem quite odd for me to suggest you should just give away any of your time or your stuff. But that is exactly what I mean.

If you want to make sure you are never defeated by greed, learn to be a giver.

When you give to others it helps you to be grateful for what you have. Giving is the way to stop feeling sorry for yourself. Instead of misery you feel joy. In place of dissatisfaction you find contentment.

You may be wondering how much to give away and how to do that. While giving is a very personal matter, a good rule of thumb is to give away 10 percent. But you can start anywhere.

Giving away part of your money and other possessions is quite simple. You can give to a homeless shelter, to a family going through difficult times, to your church or other charitable organization. The way you give of your time is to volunteer. There are lots of ways kids can volunteer to make their communities better. Here are some ideas:

1. Help a younger child to read.

2. Help cook or serve a meal at a homeless center.

3. Pack and hand out food at a local food bank.

4. Visit senior citizens at a nursing home.

5. Plant flowers in public areas that could use some color.

6. Clean up and bring toys you don’t play with anymore to a hospital.

7. Clean up trash along a river, beach or in a park.

8. Baby sit for free to help a single parent.

9. Bake cookies and bring them to your local fire or police station.

Become a giver. It will greatly improve your life.

This article appeared originally in the Debt-Proof Living Newsletter in November2012. 

"Debt-Proof Living" was founded in 1992 by Mary Hunt. What began as a newsletter to encourage and empower people to break free from the bondage of consumer debt has grown into a huge community of ordinary people who have achieved remarkable success in their quest to effectively manage their money and stay out of debt. Today, "The Cheapskate Monthly" is read by close to 100,000 Cheapskates. Click here to subscribe.

Publication date: January 14, 2013