Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! And His mercy endures forever.
These days many of our children are growing up with an ‘entitlement mentality’. That is because everything gets given to them by parents who are trying to compensate for their regular absence or their minimal parenting.
Kids who are hardly out of Kindergarten want iPhones, iPads, Galaxies, X-boxes and a host of other gadgets and luxury items that cost an arm and a leg. But giving our children all the expensive stuff they want is not only fuelling an ‘entitlement mentality’, but it demotivates them.
Realising this, we taught our children to contribute something to whatever they wanted that was not a necessity. We figured out that if they saved for something they wanted, they would want fewer things, and are more likely to appreciate them when they get them.
It worked! Our children not only picked up the illusive habit of saving, but learnt to ‘cut their coat according to the cloth they had’. They picked up so many other life skills and virtues that frankly set them on a path to living successfully.
- They learnt to appreciate money.
- They learnt not to be wasteful.
- They learnt to be self-sufficient.
- They learnt to be prudent and frugal.
- They learnt to stretch their resources.
- They learnt to be creative and industrious.
- They learnt not to throw away perfectly usable things.
- They learnt to wait patiently till they could afford the things they wanted.
- They learnt to stay out of debt when many of their mates were falling helplessly into the credit trap.
Teach your children to be grateful for what they have, on the way to what they want. Teach them to count their blessings—to focus on the good things they have and to express their gratitude daily for those things.
Teach them to be thankful for the rain, the sunshine, the birds, the moon, the air they breathe, the food they eat, the trees that rustle in the garden, the water that flows from the bathtub, and the bed on which they sleep.
Teach them that gratitude stops grumbling and complaining. You can’t be grateful and ungrateful at the same time. You can’t appreciate your blessings and complain in the same breathe.
Teach them that the things they are grateful for tend to stick around and increase. If they appreciate their friends, those friends will tend to stick around. If they show their gratitude to their teachers, those teachers will tend to like them too.
Let your children know that:
- Gratitude is a magnetic attitude.
- It’s a virtue that sees the invisible.
- It changes our feelings and expectations.
- It dispels depression and attracts abundance.
- It turns the little we have into more than enough.
Alphonse Karr once said, “Some people grumble that roses have thorns; I am grateful that thorns have roses.” What a powerful lesson.
Alphonse had learnt to look for the diamond in the rough. That’s what an attitude of gratitude will do for you and your children.
The Old Testament Jews murmured and complained all through their extraordinary journey in the wilderness, because they lacked this sense of gratitude. They displeased God in the same way as we displease Him today when we complain and murmur in the midst of blessings.
The good old hymn says it best:
Count your blessings, name them one by one
Count your blessings, see what God has done
Count your blessings, name them one by one
And it will surprise you, what the Lord has done.
“God gave you a gift of 86,400 seconds today. Have you used one to say thank you?” ― William Arthur Ward
How do you teach your children to be grateful?
- By being truly thankful and grateful yourself.
- By demonstrating gratitude for everything – in front of them.
- By insisting that they be thankful for whatever they get.
- By helping them to see how blessed and fortunate they are.
- By exposing them to the poverty and lack that is all around them.
- By encouraging them to give something back to Society, to their teachers, to their Church, and to their Creator.
- By helping them to appreciate the intangible miracles of life – like the air they breathe, the beauty of the Sunset, or the privilege of having eyes to see it all.
When children don’t learn to be grateful or thankful for what they have:
- They become envious of what other people have – and soon get overcome by greed.
- They can never seem to enjoy what they have – since they are always obsessed over what they don’t have.
- They walk around with a chip on their shoulders – because they feel that they are victims.
- They keep thinking that the world owes them something – so they assume that they have a right to things that don’t belong to them and invariably turn to crime or similar vices.
In England (like most countries in the West) we live in one of the richest countries in the world, and our children are amongst the richest kids on the planet. Let your children know that. Teach them to appreciate the wealth they have.
- Eating 3 square meals a day is wealth
- Having running water from the tap is wealth
- Having a personal computer at home is wealth
- Being dropped at school in a car or bus is wealth
- Going to school to learn 5 days a week is wealth
- Having 5 or 6 pairs of shoes under their bed is wealth
- Light that comes on when you flip a switch is wealth
- Having battery-operated toys to play with is wealth.
Show them pictures of how children from the other side of the world live – or better still, take them there for their summer holidays. You may be surprised to see what the contrast will do for their impressionable souls.
If you do these things faithfully and consistently (and with God’s help), you would be instilling a deep sense of appreciation into your children’s psyche, and they will leave home with a sense of gratitude in their toolbox of life.
“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.” ― Marcus Tullius Cicero
Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer.
― Maya Angelou