Mastering the Entitlement Beast
Raising Unselfish Kids in the Age of Selfies
I've been reading Kristen Welch's blog, We Are THAT Family, for a few years now and I'm constantly encouraged by her posts. I was recently given the opportunity to read her newest book Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World before its release. I'm currently only halfway through the book, but it has been so thought-provoking and challenging that I thought I should blog about what I'm learning.
Kristen's book dispels the false notion that it's a mother's job to make her kids happy, which is definitely something I needed to read. For so long I had bought into the idea that I was supposed to ensure that every waking hour of the day was full of fun and my kids were never supposed to be bored. I struggled with keeping them constantly entertained.
I've seen the ugly face of entitlement in my own life. I'd buy something frivolous just because I thought I deserved it not because I necessarily needed it. I'd be happy with something until another bigger and better thing came along. Suddenly, I would find myself no longer content with the things I'd been blessed with and I would begin coveting something else.
It's a vicious cycle that never leads to true happiness.
Please don't get me wrong: I'm not saying that there's anything inherently wrong with having things. If God has blessed you over and above the basic necessities of life, be grateful for it and enjoy! But I wonder if we, as Americans, have gotten the idea somewhere along the way that we should amass as much stuff as possible. If we run out of room to store stuff in our house, it's easy enough to fill up a shed or rent a building to keep all of the excess clutter. Really? Why is this a good idea?
We live in the richest country in the world – so shouldn't we use our resources to help those in need? I understand that there are plenty of people out there that actually do give of their time and resources to help those in need, but there are far more of us that don't. Most of us could afford to give quite a bit of stuff away without even noticing the loss. I think we, myself included, have a tendency to put more emphasis on possessions rather than people. Jesus didn't lay down His life for stuff, but for souls.
Our family scrapes food into the garbage every day because either we're not hungry enough to finish it, or we have so much food in our house that it doesn't bother us to trash some of it. A prime example of this occurred this morning. Our 12-year-old, Z, made a large bowl of oatmeal, took one bite, and then threw the rest into the garbage because it was cold. I have no idea why it didn't cross her mind to put it into the microwave and warm it back up, but honestly I was more flabbergasted that she would trash perfectly good food even though she swore she was hungry. And all of this after she had already poured two glasses of milk down the sink because she thought someone else had taken a sip out of her cup. Of course I took this as a teachable moment. I explained to her that there are children in our own city that would be more than happy to eat cold oatmeal for breakfast because they don't have anything else to eat.
When I first became a mom, I decided that I wanted to give my kids everything I didn't have as a kid. I'm sure most parents feel this way. My husband makes enough money for me to give my kids good things, so I guess I figured it was my job to fill their rooms with stuff. I mean, if there's something I want within reason, it's easy enough to pop on Amazon and click "place order." Because of my flawed views and because I'm a people pleaser, I began raising four incredibly selfish and lazy children. Now every time we leave the house my two youngest ask if they can have a treat if they are good, and every time I deny them I get quite a display of horrible behavior.
Every day after school is finished, my kids do chores. At first, they did things really well and with a happy heart, but I've recently discovered that now they only do the minimal amount of work. It took them no time at all to figure out that Mom, the control freak, would always come behind them and clean up any mess that they leave behind when the job wasn't done perfectly. It always seemed easier for me to do it than to have to listen to them complain about having to go back and do it again. Bad idea.
Today, I realized I was the only one in the kitchen prepping dinner and baking bread while they sat on their hind ends in the living room watching a movie. I almost hit the ceiling when two of them simultaneously called out to me, "Mom, make me some cheese and crackers!" Apparently their movie was more important than dinner preparations and they couldn't be bothered to do anything for themselves.
I've been a mom for 12 years now, and I'm still trying to figure it all out! I now see that I've been wrong to shelter my kids from the knowledge that there are needy people in our own city. I would go out of my way to steer clear of poverty-stricken areas so that the kids wouldn't ask tough questions. I never allowed them to watch or listen to the news because I didn't want them to know the awfulness and depravity in the world around us. I understand that I need to protect them from some things that they aren't ready to see or hear, but at the same time they should grow up with a burden for those in need. 1 John 3:17 says "But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him?” There are countless other scriptures about caring for the poor and needy I could share, but I won't. Sure, my kids know that there are people on the other side of the world that are starving, but I've never really let them see that it's also right here in our own back yard.
The first step in teaching my kids to have a heart for others and to stop thinking so much about themselves and their own wants begins with me. I have to have a heart for others and stop thinking so much about myself. I also need to confess to them that the world they live in is not as pretty and fun as they think. Not every kid has an iPod, WiiU, or more clothes that can fit in a single dresser and unfortunately not every parent has the ability to provide even the basic needs for their kids.
I think it was mid-year last year when God first convicted me (or maybe I should say when I first paid attention to His conviction) of my own selfishness and entitlement. Yes, I was a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom, but I was more interested in rushing through school and chores so that I could have time to myself. I recognized that God called me to be a missionary in my own home, and how He desires for me to disciple the four beautiful souls He has entrusted to my care. When I began to see my children as God sees them, things changed. Everything I did from then on was aimed at using the opportunity to teach them a new truth about Jesus or to point them to Him.
I realized that I was going to have to give some things up in order to follow through with this calling. I had already given up Facebook because I found that I spent more time on it than actually having face-to-face conversations with my family and friends, but I also decided to give up a weekly Bible study that I attended with a group of women from my church. Please don't read this the wrong way. I am not saying that Bible studies are wrong. I am saying that God told me that right now my time was better spent at home on those evenings, caring for my husband and children. I noticed that family Bible time was sometimes put off on those nights because I would get home too late and the kids wouldn't want to go on without me. God assured me that I would have plenty of time after the kids left home to fill with women's Bible studies and get-togethers and that I just needed to get into the Word by myself. I didn't realize how much I could learn on my own – just me and God.
I really do have great kids, and they aren't snobs. For the most part, we have really great days where everyone gets along and is pretty happy; however, we also have bad days when it's been raining for ages and we've been cooped up inside the house and get on one another's nerves. We don't have a perfect life, but we do have a blessed one. I look forward to finishing the book and implementing some of the great ideas within it. I am also eager to begin living a life of gratefulness and service and teaching my kids to do the same.
Even if I hadn't been chosen to read it ahead of time it'd have still been on my list to purchase and read.
The book is available now for preorder and if you order it directly from Raising Grateful Kids you'll receive a free gift along with it. There's also free shipping to those within the U.S. It doesn't officially come out until January 26, but it's definitely one that I would encourage all parents to read. I've already preordered another copy for myself.