If you have ever met an adult or a teenager with an entitlement mentality, you know it is not a pleasant thing. None of us wants our child to become someone who believes the world owes them one and everyone else exists to serve them. As we approach Thanksgiving week, here are a few ideas to foster gratitude instead of greediness in our children:
1. Teach them about the world.
Most of us, child and adult alike, have a very narrow perspective of what living in this world is. We that live in America often forget that our country is a very small minority compared to the rest of the world.
In 2008, the United States comprised less than 5% of the world’s total population. However, according to PolicyMic.com, “someone at the poverty line in the United States is in the top 14% of the global income distribution”. Considering that the poverty line was an annual income of $10,830 in 2010, most of us are probably in the upper portion of that 14%.
While these numbers may provide an interesting economics and math lesson for your children, the more important thing is to teach them how others in the world live. It is likely that you can find people less than 10 miles from your home that are homeless or have much less than your family does. Show your children pictures online or in books of people from around the world who live on very little food and with no running water or electricity. Introduce them to missionaries who can confirm this with real life examples.
2. Teach them about their place in the world.
It is not enough for our children to be aware of their privileged status within the world. They were not placed here to gather all the material possessions we can give them and spend their days entertaining themselves with media and fancy toys. Our kids need to know that they were placed here to serve others.
Service does not come naturally for children. We can begin with encouraging them to serve their brothers and sisters, their friends and neighbors, and the elderly. Parents can give them opportunities to serve in a soup kitchen, visit the forgotten in a nursing home or send some of their money to a mission work.
Jesus set the example for us when He spent His life completely focused on others. He tells us that when we serve the “least of these”, we are serving Him. That kind word spoken to a baby sister fell upon the ears of the Savior. The cup of lemonade offered to a friend quenches our Lord’s thirst. And doing the dishes without being asked or repaid is the equivalent of cleaning the plate from which Jesus ate.
3. Teach them how to survive in the world.
Jesus tells us in His Word that to whom much is given, much is required. Our first obligation as Christians is to glorify the Lord. In doing that, we will certainly serve others as He did.
However, we have freedoms and opportunities not given to many others in the world. Most of us have the ability to work hard, to earn income and to save, give or spend that income as we wish (minus taxes, of course!). In many ways, abundance is freely available in exchange for creative initiative and hard work.
I pity the children whose parents take the attitude to “just let them enjoy their childhood”. Of course, a child’s main work is play, and they are not equipped to handle the challenges and work load of an adult.
However, children who spend eighteen years of their life with everything being handed them and no responsibility are lost when suddenly plunged into a world that requires them to make their own way. Sadly, some of them continue the process and compromise the values and work ethic on which our nation was built. But that’s for another post on another blog!
Thanksgiving is an attitude, a habit formed and a life lived. May we challenge our children to offer gratitude towards others and to the One from Whom all good things flow.