Helping Thanksless Children

Question: My children are constantly complaining about everything. Nothing I do or give them is ever enough. I just had a birthday party for my ten year old and after he opened all his gifts, he said “is that all?” I'm so frustrated with their attitudes and greediness. What can I do? Marcy in IL

Answer: Unfortunately we're living in a culture of entitlement thinking. Television ads bombard us with the message that we're entitled to more than we have and we deserve it, even if we can't afford it. Combating such thinking in our children as well as ourselves will take intentional effort.

First, examine your own life. Do you buy more than you need to be happy or boost your mood? If so, you're teaching your children that happiness comes from things. And the lie is tricky because new things do bring some happiness. The problem is it's only temporary, so then we need more things to be happy.

Second, we need to learn to be content with what we have, and to be thankful for what God gives us. When we clutter up our lives with too much stuff, we are distracted from the deeper things of God. Instead of focusing on getting more, teach your children the joy of giving more. Take them to volunteer somewhere, or help someone in need. Teach them to pay attention to how good it feels when you give of yourself to help another person. That feeling of joy lasts much longer than the good feeling you have when you buy yourself a new toy.

Third, train your children to look for what's good in their lives and to be thankful. No one gets everything they want in life; whether it is in the realm of more stuff, or being picked for a certain sports team, or having certain talents or abilities. Instead of grumbling and complaining about what they don't have, teach them to focus and be grateful for what they do have and to express that gratitude toward others.

My book How to Find Selfless Joy in a Me-First World will help you think more biblically about the problem of self-absorption. Included is a study guide for individual or group use. Go to my website to order.

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