Think about the word enough. What is enough? If our kids don’t know what enough is, they will never be happy and content no matter what they have.
I heard a woman named Marianne Miller speak on the topic of enough recently. Miller’s presentation was full of humor and wisdom, and I appreciated the topic so much that I decided to read her fantastic book on the topic entitled The Gift of Enough: Raising Grateful Kids in a Culture of Excess.
Miller worked as a financial counselor, and when she first started, she was blown away by how many families with six-figure incomes were living paycheck to paycheck because they had not learned the concept of enough.
Some of my neighbors seem to have fallen into the mindset that good grades are of ultimate importance. Why? Their kids’ good grades mean better college prospects, which means a better job, which means more money, which means more happiness. So, high value is placed on good grades. I’m not saying that getting into a good college is not worthwhile, because I hope my kids get into decent colleges too, but maybe it’s more important to help kids develop areas of deep interest and learn contentment than to focus on grades. That might lead to more future happiness and a fuller life.
When kids understand enough, they can better appreciate times of abundance. “For many kids, luxuries aren’t treats because they are everyday occurrences,” posits Miller. “If we want our kids to enjoy life more, we may actually need to give them less.”
It’s amazing how quickly kids can start to feel entitled. My kids’ grandfather has been taking them to an evening bible study for several years. A while ago, he started stopping by the gas station afterwards and buying them an Icee. Instead of being overjoyed at the sight of the Icee every week, they soon started to expect it. Of course, one time when he decided it was getting late and they needed to skip the Icee, you would have thought their favorite puppy had died, evidenced by the tears of anguish rolling down their poor, deprived cheeks.
In her book, Miller quotes G.K. Chesterton: “There are two ways to get enough – one is to continue to accumulate more and more; the other is to desire less.” I love that. Getting what we want and choosing to love what we have (desire less) essentially leads to the same result.
I love the response Miller gives when her kids ask her about getting new stuff:
“Those things would probably be fun for a little while, but then we would get used to them and want something else, the next thing we saw. I want to always appreciate what we have and not be chasing what we don’t have.”
Our kids should know the difference between wants and needs. Our kids should also understand how wealthy we are compared with most people in this world, simply because we own things like a refrigerator. I have recently pointed out to my kids that, because of things like central heating and air-conditioning, we live in more comfort than many kings throughout history. How grateful we should be! When my kids talk about future dreams and purchases, I have started dropping subtle reminders that we have everything we need—we have enough, right now—to be as happy as anyone. We don’t need more stuff to be truly happy.
Instilling gratefulness in my kids ultimately is not just about conversations we can have. I know that I need to model the concept of enough, too. My kids should observe me saying “no” to luring purchases, showing hospitality even though my house and furniture are not perfect, and having a good attitude about driving my old mini-van around town. (Actually, I love my old mini-van because it’s comfy and it’s paid for!) My mini-van is enough, for me.
Miller recommends helping our kids learn deferred gratification by putting things they want to purchase on a list. That way, kids can think about it a while and learn to not make impulse purchases. It has been my experience, as well as Miller’s, that when kids do this, they eventually decide they don’t “need” something after all.
My eight-year-old daughter is a huge Star Wars fan, and I will say that, after weeks of wanting to purchase a talking-Darth Vader helmet, she did ultimately decide that it was definitely worth the money!
I really appreciated thinking about and reading about the concept of enough, and how I can teach this concept to my kids.