Do your kids struggle with contentment? Are your children never happy with what they have, but always wanting something bigger or better?
It’s only the first week of November, and my kids have already been working on their Christmas lists for several weeks. Now, I don’t mind having ideas of what they would like for Christmas, but when they want every single Lego set in the catalogue that came in the mail, it makes me a little bit concerned.
So how do you teach your kids to be content? How do you raise kids who are grateful and not entitled? That’s what we’re going to talk about today.
Welcome to episode #9 of The Family Bible Connection Podcast with Laurie Christine!
You can listen to the podcast episode here, or keep reading for the blog version.
THE STRUGGLE TO BE CONTENT
Happy November! Thanksgiving is only a few weeks away, and after that it’s time to decorate for Christmas! I know that during the months leading up to Christmas, kids often struggle to be content with what they have. My kids tend to get a little bit starry eyed when they start making lists of all the toys they’d like to get and are constantly scheming about how to get something bigger or better. So, for the next few weeks, we are going to be talking about contentment.
How many times have your kids been so excited about a certain gift or toy that it consumes their thoughts for weeks on end… but then a few days after they receive the gift, the excitement wears off and they’re already making a new birthday list, or planning for Christmas NEXT year. This happens in my family all. the. time.
In our consumer-minded society, it’s difficult to teach our children to be content, when the world around them entices them with something bigger or newer or better. As much as I’d like to blame our society, the struggle with contentment started way back before shopping malls or Netflix or Amazon.
THE ROOT OF THE PROBLEM
King Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 1:8
“Everything is wearisome beyond description. No matter how much we see, we are never satisfied. No matter how much we hear, we are not content.”
But the human struggle with contentment began even before King Solomon… It started way back at the very beginning, in the Garden of Eden. Eve wasn’t content with what God had blessed her with. Satan tricked her into believing that God was holding out on her. Even though God told her and Adam that they could eat from all the other trees in the garden, they just had to have one more bite.
Contentment is primarily a faith issue, not a “stuff” issue. Eve did not trust that God was good and that He knew what was best. And so we see that discontentment was the root of the very first sin.
And isn’t it like that with us today as well? Our discontentment is ultimately rooted in the fact that we don’t trust God. We don’t believe that He is good and that he has our best interest in mind. We don’t view his gifts as “good” gifts. We’re just sure that everyone else is better off than we are. We believe the lie that God is holding out on us.
If we seek fulfillment in our circumstances or our stuff rather than in God, we will never be satisfied or content.
Our hearts will be like the “broken cisterns” that the prophet Jeremiah talks about. God’s people had turned away from God to worship idols. But those false gods did not satisfy the people. Jeremiah compares the futility of worshipping idols to attempting to fill a broken cistern with water. (A cistern was a large stone basin where water was stored for times when there was not enough rainfall… much like our modern water towers today).
Jeremiah 2:13 says,
“For my people have done two evil things:
They have abandoned me—
the fountain of living water.
And they have dug for themselves cracked cisterns
that can hold no water at all!
Of course, if a cistern has a crack in the bottom, it can never be filled, no matter how much water you pour into it. In order for the cistern to be functional and full, the cracks must be fixed and the cistern must be filled with fresh, clean water.
THE SECRET TO BEING CONTENT
So, what is the solution to these broken cisterns? How do we repair the cracks in our own hearts? How do we teach our kids to be satisfied and content? The good news is, the Bible tells us we can actually learn contentment. And if it can be learned, then it can also be taught.
The apostle Paul said in Philippians 4:11
“I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything.”
Paul declares that he is happy and satisfied with whatever God chooses to give him, whether a lot or a little.
In the second part of the passage in Philippians, Paul says this:
“I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.”
Did you catch that? Did you hear what his secret is? The secret to being content in every situation, no matter what the circumstances… “I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” Ultimately, we are desperately dependent on Jesus to fix the cracks in our broken hearts and to fill us with the life giving water of his Spirit.
THE CURE FOR DISCONTENTMENT
Now, this all sounds very theological and important, but when it comes down to it, how do we practically teach our kids to be content? Where do we start?
I believe that the cure for discontentment is thankfulness. And what better time of year to focus on thankfulness than the month of November?
When we focus on God’s greatness and the blessings he has given us, we begin to develop a heart of thankfulness. When we fix our thoughts and our hearts on God, we can’t help but express thanks for all He is and all He has done for us. And when our hearts are full of thankfulness, there is no room left for discontentment.
I want to give you some super practical ways that you can help your kids learn to be content.
1. MODEL THANKFULNESS
Raising kids who are grateful and content starts with you, Momma! Do your kids notice you being thankful? Or do they see you complaining about circumstances and never being satisfied? When our hearts, as moms, are in the right place, we will be able to model for our kids what a heart of contentment looks like.
How do we do that? How do we create a heart of contentment in ourselves? I believe this is only accomplished by the grace of God, through the Word of God. When we meditate on God’s word and reflect on his goodness and his faithfulness, the Holy Spirit begins to change our hearts and create a spirit of thanksgiving instead of discontentment.
A practical way to model thankfulness to your kids is to tell them what YOU are thankful for! Here are a few examples:
- “It’s a bummer that it’s raining today, but I’m so thankful that we have umbrellas and rain boots to wear!”
- “You know, I’m really thankful that God gave us His Word to read so we could know more about him.”
- “I’m so thankful that you have a healthy body that allows you to run and climb and play.”
- “I’m really thankful that Grandma is coming to play with you today – you’re so blessed to have a Grandma that loves you.”
2. ENCOURAGE THANKFULNESS
Be intentional about encouraging your kids to be thankful. When you do something for them or when you give them something special, encourage them to say “thank you.” Even if it’s not sincere at first, just the act of saying “thank you” will help to reframe their mindset and to think of someone other than themselves. In our family, before our boys are allowed to leave the dinner table, they have to say “Thank you mommy for supper, may I be excused please?”
In a few weeks, I’m going to have some fun, practical activities for you to do with your kids to teach them about contentment and thankfulness, but here are a few quick ideas to help you get started:
- Thankfulness Jar – everyone in the family writes or draws something they are thankful for each day of November and puts the slip of paper in the jar. On Thanksgiving Day, take out all the papers and read them together, then take some time to thank God for all his blessings.
- Thankfulness Journal – at dinner each evening, go around the table and have everyone share something they are thankful for. Mom or dad can keep a list in the journal. Take out the journal each November and keep a running record of God’s blessings from year to year.
- Thankfulness Banner – this is similar to the thankfulness jar, but instead of a jar, hang a rope or ribbon across a window. Everyone in the family can draw or write things they are thankful for, then clip them to the ribbon using a clothes pin or paper clip.
3. EXPERIENCE THANKFULNESS
Sometimes my kids are ungrateful because they don’t realize how much work has gone into the end result or end product of what they get to enjoy. My kids often think that money just falls from the sky whenever we want it to. They think that I can buy them whatever they want, because I have plenty of money (which I don’t, by the way, much to their disappointment). But, when I teach my kids that money actually has to be earned, they start to appreciate the hard work that goes into earning money.
A great way to teach kids to be content and thankful is to involve them in the work that needs to be done around the house. Give your kids some responsibilities like loading the dishwasher, helping to cook meals, mowing the lawn, and cleaning up toys. When kids are involved in making your household run more smoothly, they’ll be more appreciative of the work that mom and dad do on a daily basis. If your son really wants a new video game, allow him to do chores to earn the money to buy the game. He’ll be much more thankful for the game in the end, because he’ll have helped to contribute.
My boys are super motivated right now to buy a new hamster. (Unfortunately, our first hamster, Snuffles, came to an untimely end). I haven’t loaded or unloaded the dishwasher in almost two weeks! Even my four year old has been helping me with loads of laundry. It’s a win-win situation for all of us!
MEMORY VERSE CARDS – THANKSGIVING AND CONTENTMENT
I have a free gift for you ! The Gift of Gratitude — Printable Activities to Teach Kids About Thankfulness and Contentment, includes 12 Bible memory cards about thankfulness and contentment, “I’m Thankful” journal pages, and printable Thankful Banners. This resource is a great way to fill your heart with gratitude for what God has done for you and your family.
I’d like to close our episode today in prayer. I’m praying in the first person so that you can make this a prayer for yourself and your own children. You can find a copy of the prayer in the show notes.
“Lord, you have given me so much to be thankful for. Please forgive me for taking your blessings for granted. Forgive me for being discontent. Help me to be satisfied in you. Help me to model a heart of contentment and gratitude to my children, no matter what the circumstances. Amen.”
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