One of my deepest desires is for my daughter to have a grateful heart. Too often today I see young kids struggle with entitlement and selfishness. I understand how challenging it can be for a parent to withhold instant gratification from a child. The past two years I have made a habit out of giving in to my daughter too many times. I have seen her expect things from me and throw tantrums when I wouldn’t give in to her demands.
I have recognized how important and precious it is to instill the value of gratitude into her daily life. I have been meditating on the idea of gratitude the past few weeks. What makes a person grateful for what they have? We live in a day and age when we have everything at our fingertips. We can order fast food, buy a movie on our television without even getting off the couch, and even shop online. Even still, some people are grateful for the blessings in their lives and others expect it without working for it. It isn’t even a class thing. I have had wealthy friends thank me profusely for a small, seemingly insignificant gift and people who live paycheck to paycheck gripe over not getting the gift they wanted for Christmas.
Growing up, I didn’t get everything I wanted. Sometimes I envied other children for the big toys they got for their birthday’s. In high school I was insecure that I didn’t have the designer hand bags other girls got to wear. In college I had to work hard serving tables to cover my bills. Could my parents have given me everything? Sure. Did they? No. They were not rich, but they expected me to learn how to work. I am so grateful for them believing in me enough to let me learn how to make it on my own in life.
Now that I am in my parents shoes, I am terrified. I fear letting my little girl ever go hungry, be in need, or want for something so badly that she thinks about it every second. So often I overcompensate. I give in too much. I am afraid to one day let her see what it is like to be too short on cash to cover her phone bill, or worse, her rent. Heck, I have a hard time saying no to her over a pack of Goldfish in the Target checkout lane. I don’t want her to suffer. I want to be able to provide all that I can for her. I love seeing her face light up over a new toy or at Christmas opening gifts.
Yet as I continue to seek God’s will and true wisdom in parenting I am realizing that truly loving my daughter means I will need to learn how to withhold from her at times. I will need to learn how to say “no” even if I can say “yes”. I will also need to learn to trust God that he can help her to become an able adult that can work hard for things and appreciate them.
Listen friends. This is a real struggle for me. I know some of you are rock stars at saying NO to your children. You wait until their birthday to give them that one special gift. You teach them patience, self-control, and gratitude daily. I have a hard time saying NO. I am not a great disciplinarian. I often am tempted to bribe my kid for selfish reasons (5 more minutes of grocery shopping!) or just to please her in the moment. I have a hard time seeing the long term benefit of teaching my daughter gratitude and that it is actually a very loving thing not to give in to her every want.
I have made a list of ways I am going to try and be more intentional about raising Lillian to appreciate the gifts and blessings she has been given. I understand that I can only do my best. I will fail at times. She will also have her own choices to make. I just want to do the best I can, and pray God can work in her heart as she grows up. I hope one day she will look back and thank me for not always giving her everything she asked for. I am sure there will be trying times where I might burst into my room crying, but I long to see my daughter grow into a self-sufficient adult who can appreciate the world and blessings she has been given. Oh, and I would love to see her desire to give generously in return.
Don’t Buy Her Love
Showering my daughter with tons of gifts at Christmas or buying her stuff to win her affection is not going to make her think I love her more. Actually, it robs the joy of gift giving. It reduces it to “stuff”. It takes the meaning out of gift giving if I constantly buy her things for no good reason. She will learn to expect gifts, toys, and clothes without learning to wait in patience or exert self-control until she gets something new.
Less Is More
Recently we purged lots of old toys and gave them to Goodwill. Once we started limiting what Lillian had and giving items away, we could see that she actually appreciated what she owned. We have been trying to tell her that she needs to take care of what she has, because there is value in each toy, baby, and book she owns. Everything has a place, and everything she has gets used. If not, we will donate it to someone else who can use it.
Let Her Learn How To Be A Steward Of Her Possessions
As she ruins toys or books I need to try my best not to run out and replace the item, but rather let her experience the real life consequence of not being a good steward over an item. This will teach her that material things do have value.
Make Gifts Meaningful
One of my goals is to get to know my child well enough to understand that one special gift she really wants when I gift give. My favorite gifts have been when people pay attention to what I really want or need and secretly surprise me with it.
Tie Gifts To A Special Memory
My favorite gifts as a child were typically tied to special memories. I will never forget the blue velvet dress my Nana bought for me for my eighth grade dance. What made is so special? I had never owned a dress from a department store. She took me to Dillard’s and told me I could pick out whatever I wanted, and not to look at the price tag. I was so excited! Afterward we had dinner together.
We all know how this feels. Meaningful gifts are very often tied to giant events in our lives. Weddings, babies, graduations… we remember the gifts we received. I would love for my daughter to remember memories as she looks upon the gifts she owns.
Make Gifts Rare And Precious
If I ate flourless chocolate cake every day it would not be very special and it might even get old, quick. After a month long cleanse, I bet it would taste amazing! I believe the same principle goes with gifts. If I buy my daughter toys and stuff constantly, it won’t be special. She will just expect it, and worse, demand it. I want her to thank me and others for any gift she gets!
Give The Gift Of Praise, Hugs, And Kisses Often
There is nothing in the world better than a compliment or a hug from someone I love. I am sure my daughter would rather get tons of kisses and hugs than any toy. She loves when I cuddle her, tickle her, or tell her how proud I am for an accomplishment. I need to remember how powerful the gift of love is for my daughter, give it often, and best- it is FREE!
Thank God For Our Blessings
One habit I am getting into is praying daily with my daughter for our many blessings. I include blessings we often take for granted or overlook- hot water, food, shelter, warm clothing, and health. We then thank God for other blessings such as friendships, special meals, and fun days. When I personally thank God for the things I really don’t deserve I am humbled deeply. I hope she will recognize that one day as well.
Give To Others In Need
My whole world turned upside down when I visited Puerto Penasco, Mexico as a college student. I went to build houses. I had seen poverty in America, but it seemed distant. The rhetoric I heard was that homeless people were homeless because it was their fault. When I went to Mexico and ate a meal with a family who had dirt floors, rationed purified water, and an outhouse in the backyard I really saw all that I had. Ever since I have felt a desire to give to others in need. Not because I am better than them or feel sorry for them. Because it could be me, and it changes my heart to give. And truly, they gave more to me in that week than I ever gave to them. They spent their entire week salary on a meal to thank us for our visit. I have never spent my entire paycheck to thank a stranger for visiting me, and probably never would. I was deeply moved.
I want to gift my daughter with generosity and serving others. I don’t want her to grow up thinking she is better than other people. I long for her to live shoulder to shoulder and become friends with children who have less than her so she can give them a gift and they can give her a gift. Of friendship, love, laughter, or food. We are all God’s children.
What thoughts do you have on this matter? Please share them!