The practice of “children’s envelopes” is actually fairly common.
While children do not have full time jobs, many either receive an allowance or have small jobs they occasionally do for a little money (raking leaves, cutting grass, shoveling driveways, etc).
I think you’re being rather harsh on the parish, children aren’t expected to give much money. Maybe a quarter or a dollar. The concept isn’t about getting money from the children but teaching them about the importance of giving back to God and their Church.
The Archdiocese of St. Louis points out:
Just as the stewardship way of life is a fulfilling and joyful lifestyle for adults, it is also a very good lifestyle to teach our children. Consider the benefits:[list]
*] Stewardship can help build self-esteem. The advertisements that children hear in the commercial world often carry the underlying, subtle message that you are not good enough the way you are and therefore you need to acquire this product or that product to make you acceptable. In church kids need to hear a different message. They need to hear that God has already blessed them with all the gifts and talents that they will need. In fact, God has given them an abundance of good things and they have enough to share.
*] Stewardship can make children happier. Unfortunately, in today’s world, children are bombarded with materialistic messages that often lead to a sense of entitlement and to frustration and dissatisfaction with life. In contrast, stewardship encourages an attitude of gratitude. Experts tell us that children usually form their attitudes about sharing sometime between the ages of 6 and 10. They will either develop an entitlement attitude – “The world owes me.” “I don’t have enough.” Or a stewardship attitude – “I have been blessed.” “I am happy to share.” It is impossible to be grateful and unhappy at the same time. As we count our blessings we naturally find a sense of peace and contentment.
*] Stewardship helps children set priorities. As children learn that they are called to give back something to God they also learn that they must let go of some of their own wants. Stewardship teaches children the difference between needs and wants. Children learn to concentrate on their blessings rather than on what they want.
*] Stewardship prepares children for their adult role in the Church. Children need to learn that stewardship is not just a service project that they must do before they can be confirmed or graduate. Stewardship is a way of life. It is the way a good Christian lives every day of every year.[/list]
Parents, of course, are free to refuse the envelopes and teach their children about stewardship in other ways. We live in times where there are so many things competing for our attention and resources, programs that teach children about faithful stewardship are not a “money grab” but rather are simply a “hands on” teaching tool.