In our me-focused world, it’s not uncommon to have ungrateful children. This is how we’ve gotten them and what we can do to teach contentment.
I just needed a gallon of milk, some zucchini, and an onion.
We couldn’t even get in the front door without maneuvering around a giant display of candy. “Oh mom, can we PLEASE get some candy?” they begged as if they hadn’t eaten in weeks and the candy would keep them alive. I simply kept walking and they put the candy down.
Then we went down the aisle toward the milk only to be tempted by the marshmallows. “Oh mom, let’s get marshmallows. We know you LOVE Rice Krispie treats.” Again, I kept walking.
I was thankful to have secured the milk and we headed back down toward the produce aisle. “Oh mom, let’s get some coke and chips,” they pleaded. My beet-red face was evidence of frustration rising to a boiling point, but I somehow managed a kind reply. “We’ve just come into the store for 3 items today.” We grabbed the produce needed and headed to the checkout.
I know you’ve been there, too. (Why on earth do the stores hate moms so much?) I think there were a few moments of self-control as we stood there in the line, but they quickly waned into pleas from ungrateful children.
Can we get some gum?
I have $1 at home, can I pay you back and buy these M&M’s?
Oooo look at this little spinny thing mom, I really NEED it!
Each one of my 4 children was grasping something and shoving it in my face, making demands. I’d love to tell you that I kept my cool, but I try to make it a habit to tell the truth around here. Sigh. I made it through bags of candy, marshmallows, and coke, but this was simply too much.
As I have a habit of doing, I pondered the event as we drove home. (There was plenty of silence because said children were too scared to talk again.) I can’t even remember what I said in the store. Maybe it was some threat to take away their first-born child or shut them in a tower until they were 20. No, wait, that’s a movie. (ha)
Seriously, it didn’t even matter what I said in there. I felt like I had been slapped in the face. This issue of teaching my kids to be content and not to ask for every.single.thing in the store was a lot harder than it looked. Surely I was a good mom. Surely I had done some things right in regards to teaching on this topic. But it wasn’t enough to keep them from acting like ungrateful children asking for everything in sight. Which brought me back to the question at hand.
As I considered the facts about my parenting and about the world in general, I began to see that I was going to have to be much more proactive about this.
How did I get such ungrateful children?
I gave it to them.
Yep, it’s true. I give in to my kids. Sometimes when my kids ask for things, I buy them. Of course, I don’t really think this is bad parenting per se, but guess what happens if you buy something even one time? You guessed it. They ask again. So in theory, I’ve taught them to ask.
I allowed them to have too much.
Maybe you’re in my shoes and no matter how hard you try, the grandparents and relatives still think that the more presents they give, the better. Even with cleaning out and donating or selling toys on a regular basis, we still have far more than we really could ever play with. This excess creates a desire for more, feeding the heart of ungrateful children. Seems backward, but it’s true. The more you get, the more you want.
I allowed them to listen to the world.
Ok, so maybe I don’t so much allow this, but since we live here in the world there isn’t much I can do to totally block out the message the world is sending about “things.” Even without a tv, my kids still see ads that attempt to convince them their lives would simply be better if they had a particular item. I can’t keep them from taking in all of this advertising, but I can be focusing on teaching them how to evaluate it. And I do… sometimes. (Clearly not enough though.)
I neglected to teach them to be content.
That day in the car as I drove home from my little tirade in the store, I was reminded of this very important part of parenting. My kids were asking for things because they knew it was the way to get them and because they have so much and because the world tells them to want more, but the underlying issue was way bigger than all of that. The real issue was a failure on my part to truly convey to them how God wants them to feel about the things they already have.
I neglected to teach them to find godly contentment in their everyday. I had neglected to diligently teach them how to have an attitude of gratitude. This realization motivated me to look at Scripture on the topic and share it with my kids. As I started learning, I began to see that God’s Word actually has a LOT to say about this particular topic. So I created a Bible study that we could use together each day.
Little by little I began to see a difference. Instead of showing the hearts of ungrateful children who constantly ask for little things, they reminded each other of what they were learning. And on many occasions they even stopped themselves before the whole request got out of their mouths. It’s a process of course, but the journey has been worth it! So worth it that I’d like to share it with you.
As with my other studies, I wrote it on two levels spanning ages 4-84. (Ha.) Seriously though, I learned so much from it myself that it’s hard to put a cap on the age for this one. Like the other studies, the idea is for families to complete the study together and discuss. In my family, the older kids do it during their quiet time while I work with the younger ones. We come together for a morning devotion time and discuss what we are learning.
The discussions of this particular study have been some of the sweetest we’ve ever had. I’ve been so convicted about what I had never really taught them regarding God’s love for us and our lack of trust that He is giving us good things. Oh how I pray that it blesses your family, too.