There is a certain unpleasant attitude I have been noticing in my children of late. It causes them to cry and complain that they didn’t have time to play their video games that day because they were too busy playing other things. It makes them whine that they hardly ever get to go anywhere fun, even when we just returned from the park. It tells them that they are justified in being shocked that they only got five birthday presents this year. Yes, it is that mindset which young people these days are always being accused of exhibiting: the sense of entitlement.
Part of the issue, no doubt, is that I enjoy making my children happy probably a little too much. I like to get them birthday presents. I like bringing them to the park and allowing them to play video games. These things in themselves are not bad. They are one of the ways I show love to my children. But good parenting also involves doing many things that make children unhappy in the short term so that they are able to be productive and successful in the long term. That balance can be difficult for me at times.
As I was pondering this issue today, however, I realized that there is another part to this problem: My children may show a sense of entitlement partly because I often fail to display an attitude of thankfulness. “More is caught than taught,” as they say, so it’s likely that I am not showing the type of perspective that they ought to catch.
Scripture tells us to “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thess. 5:18) and to “do everything without grumbling or complaining” (Phil. 2:14). I may not whine and cry and throw myself on the floor the way my 3-year-old does, but do I really do what these verses say? Quite often not.
When everything seems to be going wrong in my school day, do I take a breath and thank God for the strength He gives, or do I respond with frustration and anger?
When I can no longer avoid that one chore that I really despise, do I set about it with a good attitude, or do I drag my feet and grumble on the inside the whole time?
When I don’t get to do that thing I was really looking forward to doing, do I accept that reality and try to move on, or do I wallow in self-pity?
When things are troubled in my life or the world around me, do I rely on God and thank Him for His gifts and mercies, or do I become frustrated at Him for allowing such things to happen?
If you are like me, you may find the latter response more common than the former. This is the same underlying attitude that I see in my children when they see only the things they didn’t get, rather than being thankful for what they did get. Though they may express it differently than I do, it is pretty convicting to realize that they are only mimicking the heart attitude that I tend to display.
Of course, I don’t expect myself or my children to go through life with a completely cheerful attitude all the time. We will experience disappointments, burdens, and pain, and I think it is appropriate to grieve and to reach out to God for comfort. The point is not that we have to keep a smile on our faces at all times, but that He wants us to lean on Him and remember that He is in control.
And as clichéd as it may sound, I do have to remember how extremely blessed I am. For me to grumble about what I don’t have makes about as much sense as my kids’ complaints mentioned at the beginning of this post. If I were to have a more thankful attitude for all that I have, would my children be more likely to follow in my footsteps? I suppose this season of thanksgiving would be a good time to try to find out!
Photo Credit: First image graphic design by Charity Klicka; all other images courtesy of Jessica Cole.