I’m frequently fighting an internal battle between wanting to spoil my children and wanting to teach them the life lessons that will serve them well.
It’s a dance, and as my children get older, I’m stumbling through it.
As we head into the holidays, I’m talking more to my children about being thankful, about giving more, asking for less.
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Lately, I’m constantly telling my kids to be grateful for what they have. In this world of always wanting more, it’s important to pause and be thankful for the abundance in our lives. It’s a concept easily lost on a 7-year-old boy who, despite the playroom full of Lego sets, expects a new toy as a reward every time he enters a store with me.
I can’t blame my child for this behavior (as tempting as that may be), because somewhere along the way he learned that his mom and dad enjoy giving to him and his sister, often for no reason at all. What I’m learning is that the temporary joy of those new toys or extra desserts is leading to a lack of gratitude in our home.
The temporary joy of those new toys or extra desserts is leading to a lack of gratitude in our home.
How do we teach gratefulness to our young children?
We have to live it ourselves first. I’m certainly guilty of wanting more and forgetting to be thankful at times. Aren’t we all?
It’s easy to get wrapped up in wanting a bigger house, a better job, a different set of life circumstances. But when I stop and look at my life, I am overwhelmed by my blessings. My family is healthy and whole. We have a home filled with love. That’s all we need, yet we have so much more. I am much happier when I actively choose gratitude.
I also want my children to understand that not all people, and not all kids, are as fortunate as we are. When my daughter doesn’t like what I serve for dinner, I remind her how lucky she is to have a healthy, warm meal. While I don’t want to make her feel badly, it’s important for her to be grateful for the things we easily take for granted. She needs to know there are children in our city, in her school even, who might not have dinner on the table that night.
I hope this will instill compassionate behavior toward those who have less, as well as feelings of gratitude for what she has never had to desire.
I am much happier when I actively choose gratitude.
As we head into the holiday season this year, I’m making a point to talk more openly to my children about being thankful, about giving more and about asking for less. While they are busy poring over the hordes of toy catalogs and writing their letters to Santa, they are also excited to help me buy gifts for the Angel Tree at church, and for families in their school who have needs much greater than ours.
When my children grow up, my hope is their holiday memories will be filled with happy visits to cousins for Thanksgiving, extra special family time at home during Christmas, and memorable instances of reaching out to bring warmth and happiness to others.