With Thanksgiving approaching, and then Christmas, the commercial frenzy begins earlier and earlier each year. With the lights and festive decorations comes a spirit of discontent and selfishness.
It’s a most difficult job to teach my children to be ever grateful in a society that places Über importance on instant gratification and more things.
I struggle with the constant bombardment of ads and catalogs in the mail, online, on the radio, on TV, during podcasts, during online radio, before movies. It’s too much. I try to protect my kids form it all. But it seeps in.
We rarely watch regular TV, but when we do, I soon remember why I prefer to record and watch rather than sit through the screaming commercials.
I am blessed by having kids who seldom ask for things when we go to stores. Even for holidays, it’s sometimes hard to buy gifts since we need nothing and we don’t even really know which toys are popular or available. We’ve chosen to live a little bit off the grid. And it’s peaceful. It takes training and discernment to get to this place. It’s a constant struggle against the world. We’re still in progress. We’ve vastly reduced our spending during holidays. We prefer experiences rather than useless things that get broken, lost, or outgrown so quickly.
We quit going to play group when my girls were preschoolers because they wanted all the toys the other kids had at their houses and no one wanted to come to our house since we had so little. It was obvious to me that it wasn’t worth the strife and I wasn’t building any relationships with those worldly moms who criticized me. And the kids are content now with less, and less, and even less, as they outgrow toys and clothes that I sell or donate and seldom replace. And it’s simpler and easier since we’re military and move every 2-4 years. Less stuff=less stress.
As a Christian parent, it’s important to me to instill value in my children.
Value is ultimately spiritual growth.
Of course, children are like sponges. They soak up whatever you give them. If you give them things, they will desire more things. If you give them education, they will crave more. If you give them junk food, they will crave junk. If you give them natural healing methods, they will come to only expect that. If you give them only healthy and whole foods, they will accept it. If you give them the Bread of Life, they will come begging for more.
The problem I see with many of the parents I know is that they fear their children. They don’t want the tears or argument. They don’t want to have to explain their choices. They don’t want to go against the grain. They want the easy way out. So they compromise with the world and give in to their children’s every desire.
And then they resent it and regret it but repeat the cycle. And their children become gimme monsters who are never satisfied.
The narrow path, the right way, is the more difficult road. It’s never easy to be the fish swimming upstream, against the current of common thought. This worldview is a hard choice and has to be constantly reevaluated. Delayed gratification is worth the reward later.
We certainly don’t deprive our children of anything they need. And we often provide treats. I rejoice to take my kids out for ice cream and buy fun items every now and then. I don’t want their memories of Christmas and birthdays to be underwear and socks, but we do give more useful than frivolous items now: books, games, DVDs, curriculum, a needed item of clothing, and a special classic toy on birthdays. We buy quality rather than quantity.
We’re in the process of getting out of debt as we change our spending habits. We’re learning and teaching our children how to be good stewards of everything God provides for us. We are learning to be content and grateful in all things. I actively teach my kids about money and how the household functions. We shop at thrift shops and consignment stores, not because we have to, but to save money and have fun finding that super amazing deal. Our household budget has a large allowance for good food because we like to cook and eat well rather than eat out, and virtually nothing is in the budget for mindless entertainment because we often stay home or do free activities like playing games, reading, watching movies together, riding bikes, skating.
We celebrate Thanksgiving (and other holidays) with food and fellowship more than the exchange of things. We love to experience friendships and share love, laughter, and passing the gravy.
Jennifer Lambert is a displaced Southern belle. Amidst desperate attempts to balance her various roles as an Air Force wife, home educator, writer, editor, and teacher of marriage and child training…she seeks daily dumptruck loads of God’s grace. She and her husband, Aaron, are passionate about Young Living Essential Oils. She shares her heart at her personal blog and her family’s homeschooling journey at Royal Little Lambs. Also, visit her on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.