“Kids today just don’t appreciate what they have.” I remember the first time I made that statement out loud. I was immediately taken aback by my own words. I had officially turned into a curmudgeon.
It is a bit ironic how each generation, when they reach a certain age, suddenly notices how spoiled and entitled the next generation is.
Over 2,000 years ago, the Greek philosopher, Plato, supposedly quipped to his young protégé, Socrates, “The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority … They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs and tyrannize their teachers.”
As wise, old King Solomon used to say, “There is nothing new under the sun.”
Parents throughout history have struggled to teach their children to be grateful and appreciate what they have. Living in 21st Century America, our task is complicated by the many advances of modern technology we enjoy. Our children have every form of information and entertainment at their fingertips. They are growing up in a world in which Amazon delivers to their front door, Walmart does their shopping for them, and their cars drive themselves.
So, how do we as Christian parents avoid raising entitled children and instill in them a spirit of gratitude toward God? Here are a few suggestions:
Learn to say “no.” Just as God in his love and wisdom doesn’t give us everything we ask for, so we need to understand that it’s love to say “no.” We often want to give our kids a happy, fun-filled childhood, but we have to understand that giving a child everything they want only spoils them.
Teach them to work. When my son was 11 years old, he asked us for a Nintendo Switch. Though we had the money to buy it, my wife and I talked about it. We felt he needed to learn the value of the money we often spent on him.
So we brainstormed with him about how he could earn the money to buy it himself. He ended up starting his own pecan business, picking and peeling pecans to sell. Within a few months, he had earned enough to buy his Switch.
Broaden their perspective. One of the reasons our children fail to appreciate how richly God has blessed them is that they don’t have the perspective of those who have less than them. Visiting or volunteering regularly at a local nursing home or food pantry will help open your children’s eyes to how abundantly God has blessed them.
Model gratitude. They say that the greatest sermon a child can ever hear is the life of their parents. Live a life of gratitude and generosity. Talk to your children regularly about how good God has been to you. Keep a notebook next to their bed and write down with them each night one blessing for which you are thankful to God. Teach them to thank God in prayer at mealtime and before bed.
With your words and actions, show your children what it means to have a grateful heart.