We want to instill in our children a desire to be grateful for the many blessings that God has given them.
Not only will they have a more joyful life, but contentment pleases God. God hates complaining. To know how much He hates it, all we have to do is observe how God responded to the Israelites when they murmured and complained.
So, how do we teach our children contentment?
First and foremost, by modeling it. If I am always complaining, always discontent with something or someone, my children will do the same. On the other hand, if I have a thankful spirit, my children will probably have one, too.
The second way may sound mean, but it is actually doing our children a favor in the long run. Don’t give them a lot of stuff. Keep life simple. If they have few toys, they are thrilled when they get a new one. If, as a rule, they eat simple, healthy meals, having a steak, with cheesecake for dessert, is a huge treat. If they go out to eat just a few times a year, it is an event to look forward to, not to come to expect as their “right.” If they usually wear clothes from the thrift store, a brand new outfit is exciting. They don’t come to expect these things as their “due” and that actually makes them much more content. (If you have a child whose love language is gift giving, little periodic gifts like gum or new notecards, are special and help them know they are loved. The goal is not that they never receive a gift from Dad and Mom, but that they that they do not feel entitled to having everything they want.)
The third way to teach contentment is to serve others. We need to help our children become “other’s oriented.” Their lives shouldn’t be all about themselves. Teach them to serve their family members. Teach them to pray for others who are going through a difficult time. Have them help you make a meal for someone who is ill or just had a baby. Have them serve in your church when ever possible. Remember the first step – modelling – applies here as well. Let your kids see you serving others. It is much easier to be content if we are too busy serving others to think about ourselves.
Gratitude and Personality Types
Contentment comes more naturally to some children and teenagers than to others. For some of our “glass half empty” children, it will be harder. We can, and should, have open, non-threatening, compassionate conversations with them about their struggle in this area. However, the goal of contentment should be the same for them, even though it will be a longer, bumpier road.
Ultimately, it is our children’s own decision whether or not they choose to be have a content spirit, or a complaining spirit. But, as a parent, I want to do everything I can do instill a contented and joyful spirit in my children.
What are some ways that you foster thankfulness in your children?