Saturday, August 17, 2013

Teaching Children Gratefulness - A Summer Series #3

I was so surprised one day over a year ago when one of our children (who shall remain nameless) said to me, "I wish I had K****'s toys!" Talk about a slap in the face! I could not believe my ears. Thoughts rushed my mind like a tidal wave rushing the shores of my most favorite beach destroying all of the meticulous sand castles that only patience and time had built (talk about crushing).

I thought we'd talked about gratefulness...I thought I covered being thankful to God for the people and things we have in our lives...why does she feel this way...doesn't she have enough...have I misjudged her likes and dislikes...have we given them enough... and then... the sobering thought...DOES SHE KNOW HOW MUCH MONEY WE'VE SPENT ON ALL OF THESE CHEAP PLASTIC TOYS THAT WERE MADE IN CHINA!!!

I remember the emotions that ran through me as I heard those words come from my darling daughter's mouth. It hurt more, I think, because the kid's whose toys she wanted was a family member first of all, and secondly, it was of someone whose mother I'd always held in high regard for the way she parented her daughter. She seemed so thorough, so clean, her discipline seemed so effective, she seemed so principled. I not only held her in high regard, but I aspired to parent like her which continuously left me feeling inadequate.

So you can imagine that when my child said this, I was affected by more than just the obvious issue that my daughter was having with ungratefulness; however, I will have to save that for another post.

Right now, I want to continue in the series of how to raise godly children in this seemingly ungodly world. I personally believe that a child can begin to grasp the idea of being grateful as early as 5 years old. According to the WebMd website, a 4-5 year old's cognitive development  includes thinking logically and expressing emotions better. Because of this, I feel that it is important that at whatever age our children begin to communicate an ungrateful attitude is precisely the correct age to discuss gratefulness.

We cant afford to buy into the idea that children are too young to understand complex or intangible subject matters.

Sooo...what did I do?

After processing my feelings of inadequacy and disappointment in myself as a mother for not getting the "right" toys that my children would appreciate and enjoy, I talked with her and said to her that what she is expressing is ungratefulness. I told her again (because as we began to talk, I distinctly remembered having a similar conversation with her before) what ungratefulness was, I gave her an example of it, and then we discussed a scripture:

Hebrews 13:5 Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

I said the reason we can be grateful is because God is with us and he's better than any toy or material thing that we will ever have

Listen, I know that it's a kid eat kid world out there. I know that kids have to be tough these days. I understand that children are more vocal, quicker thinking, and in general, insensitive to each other. I  get that, but I find it supremely difficult to allow my children to continue on in a way of thinking that goes against principles that I believe and know are right. Principles that will benefit them and society as they grow.

In today's world where parents are buying their 6 and 7 year olds personal iPads and cell phones, we have to fight through the thoughts of "my child will be the only one without this thing or that one" when deep inside you have no desire or perhaps money for them to have such items. And especially if they are showing signs of being ungrateful for the things they already have. Again, this calls on us to parent with the courage of our convictions.

It just so happens that on this particular day and at that precise timing, the girls had been invited to an inflatable playground with our neighbor. Well, I told my daughter that because she was being ungrateful for the things she has, she could not go on the playdate, but needed to stay home and think about what it means to be grateful. Even as I type this, it sounds harsh, but you know what, I used that time where it was just she and I home to really hear her out, and answer her questions about gratefulness.

I told her that she may feel those feelings inside of her and that that's not a bad thing, but that she gets to choose what she's going to do, or say after feeling those feelings. Sounds above her age level, doesn't it? It wasn't. I could tell by the kinds of questions that she was asking, that she was getting the concept clearly. Also, it was important that the time she spent at home with me was not a time of her sitting in her room, or feeling terrible about herself and/or her mistakes, but that it was a time of learning and rebuilding.

When it was all over she said that she was glad that she stayed home because she could play with all of her toys by herself. So you see, she ended up not longing and crying because her sister went to play and she didn't, but she was THANKFUL for the time that she had to herself, with mommy, and her toys, at home. She found something to be grateful for in that situation.

In closing, let's not be afraid, or overly concerned that our children cant understand a particular concept. Let's give them the benefit of the doubt that they will "get it." Let's trust God to give us what to say when we need to say it. Let's trust OUR own parenting intuition versus the norms and values of the times we are living in. 

3 Reasons to teach gratefulness

1. The times we are living in shall pass, and we as a people will be on to other ideals, values, and norms (the things "we" call "right"); but God's principles of faith, love, thankfulness...these are the principles on which He began establishing His people and the Church. And I believe that if these are the principles that God finds strong enough to build the entire Church upon, we too can unapologetically trust them as sound principles to raise our children by.

2. Here are a few antonyms of grateful: abusive, heedless, mean, rude, thankless, unappreciative, and of course ungrateful. I don't know about you, but that's not what I want for my children. These are not the traits that I want to see in them. But this is what's left when we choose not to teach gratefulness.

3. Deuteronomy 6:4-9. Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord: 5) And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. 6) And these words, which I  command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: 7) And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. 8) And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. 9) And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates (Deut. 6:4-9).

Thank you for reading. Let me know what you think! I'm sorry if it sounds "preachy," blame it on the series. ;)

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