Each year as the Thanksgiving Holiday draws near, we all feel the urge to reflect and express gratitude for our many blessings. However, this year I’ve come to realize that I, as a parent, have to make some major changes in an effort to impact the gratitude of my own children.
Last week, as I sat out clothes for my 10-year-old to wear to church, I noticed a frown on her face because she didn’t really want to wear what I’d chosen. I began to explain my reasoning for my choice, and then instantly came to my senses… “Why am I standing here explaining myself to a ten-year-old???”
At that moment, I realized we indeed had a problem. I told her she had exactly five minutes to put on those clothes, grab one week’s worth of school uniforms, her school shoes, and meet me downstairs. Of course, she knew I was not happy and insisted on trying to explain, but I refused to allow her even one word.
I gave her a dictionary, a notebook, and 2 pencils. I told her to define the following words: gratitude, ungrateful, disrespectful, appreciative, brat, obedience, thankful, privileged, abundance, and sacrifice. Then, I had her write 250 lines, including sentences like, “I understand my mother and father work very hard for the things I have,” and “I will appreciate everything the Lord has blessed me with.” Lastly, I expressed to her my disappointment in her attitude and explained she owns NOTHING, including that bedroom, closet, and everything in it, and until I decided otherwise, she was officially banned from entering the bedroom.
Later that night, I had to look in the mirror and reluctantly admit the ugly truth…(1) It wasn’t the first time I’d seen residue of ungratefulness in my children, and (2) I was responsible for creating this monster of ungratefulness! You see, it is very hard to be grateful when you have so much, and most of what you have you really didn’t earn. I had always considered myself a strict parent because my children are not allowed to do and have many things other children are allowed, but I realize that even in that, they still receive far too much.
I grew up in a house with a single mother, an ailing grandmother, and six children. My mother worked two jobs to get us the things we needed, and the things we wanted were rarely given any attention. My mother did not believe in rewarding us for things we were supposed to do like behaving, doing well in school, cleaning the house, etc., and allowance was unheard of. I’m convinced this had an impact on my drive, my ambition, my work ethic, and certainly my level of respect and gratitude.
Researchers have predicted that the current generation of youth will be the first generation who will not meet or surpass their parents’ level of success. Whether this will hold true or not, or whether we are willing to admit it or not, we must take part of the blame for this assertion. The biggest mistake I believe we make as parents is providing lifestyles for our children that they (1) did not earn, and (2) can’t maintain when they become young adults. This results in privileged little people who are convinced they’re owed something.
I understand there are various reasons we do and buy ridiculous things for our children, often times knowing we can’t afford it. Some of us want our children to have more than we did, some of us feel that our children represent a status we’ve achieved, some of us buy for our children out of feelings of guilt or inadequacies as parents, and many of us just give things to our children without really considering a reason or impact.
For most parents, our greatest goal is for our children to become independent adults. This means they are totally capable of providing and maintaining their own well-being, without the financial assistance of their parents. This, however, is very difficult for a young adult who came from a childhood of luxuries he/she can no longer afford, and it serves as the gateway to debt at a very early age.
During this season of reflection and thankfulness, I urge you to take a moment to assess the gratitude of your children. Then, ask yourself, “In what ways am I contributing to my child’s ATTITUDE and GRATITUDE?” Today is a great day to intentionally begin leading your children down a road of gratitude and successful independence!
Here are 10 simple ways to get started:
1. Make it a point to help your children understand they own nothing, and you own everything they have.
2. Do not make a habit of buying your children things they don’t need without directly connecting it to something they’ve done to earn it.
3. Examine the things you provide for your children. Determine whether or not they will be able to continue this without your support when they become adults. Are Ralph Lauren and Air Jordans really necessary? Why?
4. As a family, dedicate time at least once a month to serve (hands-on) those in need.
5. Have each child keep a gratitude journal, chronicling their many blessings. Help them understand gratefulness is directly connected to obedience.
6. Model healthy spending and budgeting for your children, and teach them the importance of “living within your means.”
7. Convey a message of responsibility and independence now, so your children understand your expectations of them as young adults.
8. Do not financially support a healthy adult child who is not in school, and make sure your financial support for children in school is limited to their needs.
9. Help your children assess the way they spend their own money/allowance. Teach them to save, budget, and tithe/give.
10. Continue to pray and ask God for direction in helping your children become successful and grateful adults.
Peace and Blessings,