After the post about raising grateful children, this question-comment prompted a new post:
“Can you share how you will practically do this with your children?
While I may not be able to implement all these ideas, I have already found some of them to be very helpful.
The foundational philosophy behind any concept is crucial. So as a parent, we need to fully ask and understand what it is we want to teach, and why. Consider these thoughts:
- Gratitude is commanded from Scripture. (Thus, parents are commanded to cultivate it within their children.)
- Gratitude enriches life–yours and everyone around you.
- Gratitude is a by-product of the heart…contentment is the source.
So, I offer a random list of ideas to implement a spirit of contentment in our own lives and hopefully that spirit captivates those with whom we live as well:
I have found that reading about the lives of other people is an easy way to allow my children to “see” into circumstances outside of the American culture. And as I mentioned in the last post, because we have so much, we have to work overtime to even begin to help our children (and ourselves) understand “being content with little”. Missionary stories are especially good.
The topic of gratitude is on my heart precisely because of what we are reading right now. Here are the three books:
- Martyr of the Catacombs
- Star of Light
- Genesis: currently, the story of Joseph
2. Mission trip
As I will explain in a bit, it is not necessary to experience extreme poverty to foster an attitude of contentment. It is, however, profoundly life-changing if you get the chance. Though costly and not practical for everyone, it’s worth every effort if you can arrange it. There are also mission opportunities closer by. It’s a bit more difficult to find really depraved living conditions that are open to allowing outsiders to come in and minister, but I’m sure they can be found.
3. Serving Close Up
While it’s a starker contrast to minister in the midst of deprivation (and perhaps necessary to address extreme heart issues of ingratitude), serving in any context is our calling and will root out selfishness, the thief of contentment. Self has a ravenous appetite. When all our time, energy and focus are consumed on ourselves, our SELVES demand more. (This is something that bothered us when our first child was in school. We were consumed with the activities we felt pressured to participate in, leaving not only our family time strained, but we felt all we did was cater to “the little girl”.)
As we look around for the smallest ways to share with others, bless others through our gifts and resources, we feed the spirit of generosity and it grows larger than our needs. Jesus left His example for us to follow:
“The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve.”
Prepare meals for someone around you, invite a family over who may not have many social opportunities, if your children play instruments let them play at a nursing home (or you could all go sing–they don’t care, they just love your being there), send cards, do some yard work for a single woman–discuss as a family how you could meet the needs of others around you. As you turn outward, the spirit of contentment will grow.
I could really take off on a tangent here (OK, I will), but I hope you will consider how our entertainment-driven culture seeks to steal our minds, our time, our energies–and ultimately, our contentment.
Have you been in a crowd of children/teenagers lately? If you’re not regularly surrounded by the mainstream teen, it can be shocking to watch what has happened to their brains and social skills. I don’t even know the names of all the hand-held contraptions, so I’m not going to embarrass myself. But I haven’t seen a family lately, eating at a restaurant or other social setting with a teen who wasn’t totally absorbed in his texting “conversation”. And if I understand it correctly, if you are a teen that goes to public school, it is unthinkable not to have the comparable gadgets of your friends. Not that gadgets in and of themselves are wrong, (my laptop is a gadget, I suppose), but I said all that to get you to think about how self-focused and recreationally-minded we are raising our children to be. Even if they were prone to think of others, their minds hardly have a free moment to entertain any ideas of the sort. Just sayin’.
OK, I’m back.
4. Use the language.
Simply verbalizing, at every opportunity, the need to be grateful will help train our minds. Remind your children to thank each other for small things and favors done throughout the day. Remind them, especially, to thank their father for all that he provides. I strongly encourage you, too, to be so, so grateful to your husbands if he works and allows you to be at home. I know that motherhood can be trying and days can be hard, but I’ll take the privilege of being able to plop on the floor and snuggle with my children any day over what my husband does daily.
5. Gratitude journal and exercises.
One of my children who needed a more rigid exercise in this area is keeping an exercise journal. This child must also read an excerpt out of a selected book (Moral Lessons From Yesteryear) and pray, on the knees, for some people in our lives who have had misfortune.
6. Sing. (Woke this morning with another idea we use that I couldn’t resist adding.)
Singing, and in particular singing the old hymns, can have a profound effect on our perspective. There is so much richness of doctrine and theology, written by men and women who often had only their faith to sustain them. “It is Well With My Soul” remains my favorite as I always ponder the miraculous grace that allowed Spafford to write such words after losing his 4 children to tragedy.
7. Scripture Memory
I can’t say it enough…Scripture memorization equips us with the necessary “ammunition” to wage war with the enemy of our souls. If we want to emulate our Savior, then we must, at the moment of temptation, be able to say, “It is written…” My children and I are currently memorizing a Psalm by reading it together every morning and before lunch, and several other long passages put to music.
And though I hope you all share your ideas, on that note I’ll end with this sweet little whisper from the Lord through the Psalm I opened to the day after I wrote the Gratitude post. These words became my prayer for the day:
“Blessed be the Lord, who daily loads us with benefits, even the God of our salvation.”