You have thought long and hard over that one special item you think little Johnny would love for Christmas. You’ve saved your pennies and shopped around for the best price. You delicately wrapped the special gift and even added ribbons and bows. You can’t wait to see his surprise and excitement on Christmas morning.
It’s 6 a.m. and the kids are anxious to start unwrapping. You hold off handing out that special gift to the very last. The moment finally arrives, and Johnny swiftly tears off the delicate wrapping and, with little emotion, looks the toy over and quickly discards it to a pile with the rest of his loot.
Where is the Gratitude?
What has happened here? Where is the excitement or, better yet, where is the gratitude? In a day where kids, on average, have a cell phone by age ten, they don’t have to wait six months for the movie to come out on DVD (dare I say VHS?), and dinner is served in less than three minutes in the car, are we asking too much of our children to expect gratitude?
As I have pondered this question, and to be very honest, dealt with it in our own home, I have come to a few conclusions. The lack of gratitude is often replaced with a sense of entitlement.
But how does this happen? Is it simply because we have a fast-paced culture? Is this a behavior we inherit through depravity? Or is this a learned attitude?
Making a Difference
I believe all three have an impact; however, I also think there are differences we can make to ensure little Johnny has a much better chance at succeeding in his call to glorify God and enjoying a happiness that is inherent with gratitude.
The difference starts with us, the moms. You see, the gratitude that is evident or missing is in many ways related to the behavior learned from parents.
While driving, do you get angry at the car that is going too slow? Do you get impatient when you have to wait in line at the checkout and the cashier makes repeated mistakes, causing you to be late? Do you get hostile when calling or e-mailing a customer service department that might have messed up your order?
Let’s bring it closer to home. Do you bark at your children or husband when you have to repeat a request? Do you grow weary and dismayed when folding the laundry or cleaning the kitchen? Do you view homeschooling as the decision you made or the burden you bear under the guise of spirituality?
The Environment We Create
Impatience and entitlement are cousins just as patience and gratitude are sisters. When we create an environment that nurtures through patience and displays thankfulness for each and every situation, circumstance, and provision that God has brought into our lives, we begin to deposit these same attributes, day by day, into our children. This includes thankfulness for the slow cars, the checkout gal, and the company who messed up our order.
But that’s not all. Patience is a necessity, but humility is the key. In each of the examples above, it takes humility to protect against impatience. Humility reminds us that we are not the only driver on the road, the cashier is in training, and that company didn’t mess the order up on purpose. These are the easier situations that arise in life. The difficulty in showing our children humility is when it becomes personal.
When you have wronged a friend, lost your temper, failed at your responsibilities, or behaved wrongly in a situation, this is where your actions reveal the attitude that your children will pick up on and mimic. Through pride we excuse, blame, deflect, and diminish, but in humility we acknowledge, apologize, and make amends.
The actions of pride are of an entitled and oftentimes impatient person. This is not always in the form of a loud and demanding individual, but sometimes through a passive aggressiveness, playing the martyr. However, the actions of humility reveal a proper awareness of self.
The next time a situation arises and you need to make a choice, remember to go beyond simple patience. Make a conscious decision to reflect on the situation in humility. Try to view the incident from the other person’s perspective and maybe, just maybe, the next time Johnny receives a gift, you will see the gratitude you displayed mirrored in his response.