Nancy Wheat is one of the most godly women I know – she’s so warm, friendly, and welcoming – and she spends her daily life spreading the gospel. And she has the best accent! 😉 She’s a personal favorite of mine. =) I’m honored that she agreed to write a guest post for us – and this subject is so needed for all of us, not just parents. Pretty sure you’ll agree! ~Kristen
We are sometimes shocked at how greedy our kids can be. Little kids, too. Have you ever been shocked by your own children’s greed, even selfishness? They think everything is theirs and that more can – and should – be given them.
What a challenge in our affluent country it is to teach our children not to want more and more. To their eyes they see the wealth of “things” we have everywhere and they don’t see why it can’t all be theirs.
How do we teach them the virtues of contentment and gratitude? The commercials, the stores, Pinterest all tell us we lack “something.” We just won’t be complete or happy unless we buy that thing or make that thing. Satan uses even this wonderful time of the year to make us dissatisfied and greedy.
What exactly is greed? One definition is “Intense and selfish desire for something, especially wealth, power, or food.” My definition is simply “wanting more than you need.” Ecclesiastes 5:10 says it so well:
He who loves money will not be satisfied with money,
nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity.
No matter how much you let your child have, he will never be satisfied unless we help him learn that enough is plenty. Teach her that sometimes doing without is good for her – and for us. Help her see how much she already has and help her learn to give thanks.
Of course, the best way to teach our kids not to be greedy is by example. Now that was easy, wasn’t it? 😉 Not really. It is hard for us to learn contentment, too. We have a friend in Zimbabwe who joked all the time to his kids, “Do as I say, not as I do.” He knew very well that his children would follow what he did much more than what he said. Not that he thought they shouldn’t listen to his verbal teaching. But our actions teach so strongly.
Did I show my kids…and now my grandchildren…that I value God and people over things? I hope so. Where is your focus? This becomes especially obvious in this holiday season where excess is glorified. Where are you spending your time and attention this season? Where do you spend time and attention all through the year? This takes personal monitoring and conscious planning. It’s one of those things we will have to bring ourselves back to again and again.
Don’t trivialize greed. It’s not cute or funny in anyone – and especially not in children. Shape their attitudes when tiny about need versus excess. Don’t allow your kids to make long, long Santa letters. They don’t “need” all of that. I know this sounds almost Scrooge-like, but seriously talk with your children about why you choose as a family to have Christmas. Whether you choose to celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday or not, talk to them about how to use this time to serve others and be grateful and content.
We did not have TV much when our kids were little. We were in Zimbabwe some of that time and when we lived in the USA we chose not to have cable – and that was a blessing. No commercials. Commercials work really well; they make us want what they are advertising. They cause us to be dissatisfied with what we already have. So, limit exposure to commercials year round, as well as now when children are directly targeted.
We tried to use memory work to help us as a family learn many virtues. One passage we especially used to help us with contentment was Philippians 2:11:
…for I have learned in whatever situation I am in to be content.
It seems too simple a thing, but teaching our kids to say please and thank you helps them to understand how blessed they are to receive anything. A discussion of how and why the action or gift is a blessing helps them to understand how fortunate they are. That in turn helps them to value and not be greedy or unsatisfied. Our example in this is key. Do we thank them for all the things they do? All their little “gifts” they give us, do we express gratitude for what we receive? Do they hear us voicing thanks every day to others and to God? We will hear our own words – or lack of words – echoed.
Financially, we were never able to do lavish Christmases in my childhood as a missionary kid, nor when we were parents. That “lack” was a blessing because it made us concentrate on service and traditions repeated every year that did not require dollars.
As a child, my parents gave us one present and a stocking with an orange, a sweet or two, and maybe pencils for school. We loved making decorations, making Christmas cookies, taking food to others, caroling, inviting those alone to join us for Christmas dinner, giving gifts anonymously, etc. My husband and I tried to do similarly with our children. Finding someone in need and as a family making a Christmas box up for them is a fun way to help our kids think of others instead of themselves. Jesus said “it is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35)
There are so many ways to shift our focus. Magi boxes, stores that have children’s names on the Christmas tree that have a short wish/need list you can buy for as a family. Don’t do this alone. Have your kids involved every step of the process. If they have some money in their piggy bank let them have the chance to buy an item with their own cash. Let it “hurt” a little. They will value it more. Talk about passages such as Proverbs 14:31:
Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his maker,
but he who is generous to the needy honors him.
Deuteronomy 6:6-7 reminds us we have to talk and teach our children in every setting of life.
You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down and when you rise…
If our children are greedy and entitled, we need to look in the mirror and make a plan to be proactive in teaching thankfulness and contentment. One of my favorite passages to keep me “centered” any time of the year is I Thessalonians 5:15-18:
…always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
Do our kids see us doing these things? If not, let’s take a long look in the mirror. It’s past time to change our family’s pattern of greed and entitlement and start wholly living for Him.
Nancy Wheat has spent her life as a missionary, having been born and raised on the field in Zimbabwe and then choosing to spend several years working there with her husband Bobby. As a married couple, they spent a total of eight years in Zimbabwe as missionaries and have worked with churches in Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas since their return to the U.S. Nancy earned a B.S. in Bible and Social Work from Abilene Christian University and has used her talents to serve wherever she has gone. She enjoys teaching all ages, speaking at ladies events, and hosting studies in her home over endless cups of hot tea. She has recently started blogging at Growing Together. Nancy and Bobby have worked with the Lake Shore Drive Church of Christ in Waco, TX, since 2012. They have three children who, with their Christian mates, have given them eight grandkids.
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