Want your kids to mature and derive joy through giving rather than keeping? Want them to become generous, giving, and gracious people?
It starts with you.
With your values.
With your priorities.
With your awareness that enough is enough.
Contentment is contagious. Unfortunately, it’s also pretty rare.
It’s all too easy for parents to communicate the wrong messages to their children. When we try to keep up with the Joneses rather than rejoicing over their blessings, we send the message that material possessions are more important than spiritual riches.
When we act as if joy is dependent on what we have, where we live, and how we feel, we model self-centeredness for our children. When we hang on to what we have rather than sharing it with others, we shout, loud and clear, that it’s all about me.
If you want your family to experience true joy, you have to shift the spotlight from yourselves to others.
One of the most damaging things you can do as a parent is to give your children the best of everything. Instead, teach them the value of working, saving, and giving. Show them, by your own example, the blessings that come with sharing what they have with others. Let them see that joy isn’t dependent upon what you acquire, but who you are in Christ.
Don’t indulge your children and don’t allow anyone else to spoil them either. Sit down with the grandparents and have a come to Jesus meeting with them. Grandparents usually don’t intend to undermine the training of your children, but they can do it in a heartbeat if you let them give your kids whatever they want.
Encourage grandparents to offer the kids love and support rather than video games and material stuff. Those intangible gifts are much more valuable than spoiling or spending, and they will help to reinforce your priorities with your kids.
The Starting Point
Do you live in a household filled with discontent? Do your kids hound and harangue you for everything they want? Do you feel yourself caving in to the pressure to make more, buy more, move up, live large?
You’re not alone.
We are all bombarded with over a thousand ads every day. Marketing experts excel at making us feel dissatisfied. Your life is incomplete, and you’re incompetent unless you drive the right car, live in the right neighborhood, and have the newest flat screen TV. You’re conditioned to want, want, want.
No wonder we’re filled with unfulfillment.
But you can change it.
You can teach your children self-control and contentment.
And you can teach yourself as well.
Like most other principles that we try to pass on to our children, contentment must be modeled. Your children need to see and sense that you are happy and at peace with life as it is, not constantly striving for more. They need to understand that real joy comes when we recognize God’s gifts and open our hearts to share them with others.
There are simple ways to communicate those truths to your children,
even when they’re very young:
• “You are not always going to get something when we go to the store.”
• “Yes, honey, I like those shoes, but remember, we’re shopping for what we need, not what we want.”
• “You have a lot of video games you don’t use. Is there someone you could give those to who would enjoy playing with them?”
• “Let’s sort through our closets and give away the things we rarely wear.”
Be intentional about teaching your children the difference between a want and a need. We need the basics of life, such as food, clothing, and shelter. We don’t need designer jeans or hundred-dollar tennis shoes. We don’t need a fifty-five inch flat-screen TV.
Once we understand the difference, we can begin to move toward true contentment. In fact, once you and your kids grasp the concept of streamlining and simplifying, you may find that you’re actually having fun living that way.
Teach your kids to express thanks for anything and everything — big stuff, little stuff, things they’ve always taken for granted. In time it will become second nature to say, “Thank you” — to you, to others around them, and to God.
Whenever we eat together as a family, whether we’re at home or away, everyone knows they’re expected to express thanks to the person who made the meal or paid for it. There have been times when we’ve gone out to eat, and after dinner I will sit in the car and not start it. Invariably someone asks, “What are we waiting for?” At that instant everybody will quickly review in their own mind whether they’ve said, “Thanks for dinner.”
The earlier you begin, the sooner thankfulness will become a habit that takes root in the lives of your children. As a parent, don’t get upset if your children forget sometimes. I’m confident that their lineage is human. The end goal is not legalism or guilt trips, but developing a spirit of thankfulness in that young heart.
Watch the Building Family Ties with Faith, Love and Laughter video:
Excerpted with permission from Building Family Ties with Faith, Love and Laughter by Dave Stone, copyright Thomas Nelson, 2012
In what ways do you cultivate gratitude and create a culture of contagious contentment in your home?