My least favorite time of year, when it comes to parenting my kids, is when the toy catalogs come out. Right around when the holiday decorations start being seen around town, our mailbox starts overflowing with its own décor – catalogs galore. And not just any catalogs, but catalogs that appeal to little people with big eyes. Eyes that are prone to see all that they don’t have, that their friends do.
We are blessed to have so many family and friends around us who love our family and enjoy showering gifts on my children, and I’m grateful the Lord’s blessed me with enough to be able to give them some gifts as well. But even with all those gifts, there are always some things they long for that they don’t get. It’s tough sometimes to go back to school or have play dates with friends after Christmas and hear about some extravagant toy that someone else got, when they know it’s something they probably won’t ever get. Really though… is that disappointed feeling actually a huge blessing in disguise?
Entitlement. Don’t we all struggle with it at some point? It started with Eve back in the garden, wanting the one thing she was told she couldn’t have and listening to the rebellious voice telling her she deserved it. Still today, the same struggle continues. We long for what we can’t have, forgetting all we do have. We feel behind, cast aside, or like we don’t completely fit in when we see more things we don’t share in common with people than what we do. And the scary thing is, that just as Eve passed her issues and her sin nature down to her children, so we pass ours down to ours as well. Jealousy. Greed. Envy. Selfishness. The list goes on. I’ve seen it in my own life, and in my own home.
So when I picked up Kristen Welch’s new book on Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World, I expected to be given some kind of formula to curb my children’s desires for more and teach them contentment. But what I first got was a hard wake up call to work on my own discontentment.
“Parents who want to raise more grateful kids need to start by living more grateful lives.” -Kristen Welch
The key to a grateful life, the secret to contentment, and the way to rid our homes of this ugly issue of entitlement… it starts in my heart. And in yours. When we, as the examples in our families, choose to count our blessings, or to count our gifts (as Ann Voskamp so eloquently calls them)… we find the answer the culture needs to see today, that ultimately helps our children see that Jesus is truly all we need.
“Is that all? I believe these three little words sum up the tone in our culture.” – Kristen Welch
This book comforted me while it pricked at my heart. It gave me encouragement that it’s really OK that I’m not able to buy my kids some of the things their friends have, or live in what we might call our “dream home.” It reminded me that when I remember to make gratitude my priority, my attitude will follow… and so will theirs. Finally, it did give me many tools to help instill gratitude in my children, including service opportunities, intentional family time, smart choices about technology, and ways to live out God’s love here in our home.
So next year, when those toy catalogs grace us with their presence in our mailbox, they are going right in the trash. Better yet, maybe we will take some time to first pick out a toy for a child who may not get any otherwise. Our family blessings notebook will continue to get added to, so that one day, with a lot of work and a lot of prayer, maybe my kids will get it.
“When entitlement’s poison begins to infect our hearts, gratitude is the antidote.” -Kristen Welch
I was so overjoyed to be a part of the launch team for the Raising Grateful Kids book. As a thankful gift (because you can’t write a book on gratitude without being grateful, right? Such a great example from the author herself!), Kristen gave us all a gratitude bracelet, made by the women at the Mercy House maternity home in Kenya, which was founded by Kristen.
It is a white bead bracelet with three copper beads, reminding me to ask these three questions each day:
- Who do I appreciate today?
- What made me smile today?
- How was God good today?
You all, just that little exercise changes daily life so much. The focus gets off of what didn’t happen, and on what did. It’s off what I don’t have, and on what I do. I challenge you to try it this week. And be sure to pick up a copy of Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World. Your perspective is sure to change as you learn from Kristen’s own family stories, identify with similar struggles, and see firsthand that contentment is possible.by