How can we make sure our children don’t grow up in this entitlement society with the same attitude? I don’t have grown children yet, so I am looking back on what my parents did with me and hoping that this works. How can we teach our kids to be thankful?
Twenty years ago, I was newly married and working temporary jobs through a “temp agency” to fill in for people who went on vacation or for companies who had a job with a limited scope to be completed. One of those jobs was working for a city government office, entering data into a database.
I was one of the 8-to-5 workers, but most of the people around me were on shift work in the Department of Water. All these men and a few women would spend the morning and early afternoon using backhoes and those great big drills to dig up concrete, replace water main breaks, fill them back in with new concrete and move on to the next issue. But 3:15 or so always found them back in the employee lounge sitting around tables – playing checkers.
For close to two hours every day, these men played checkers and talked and got paid for it. It was their right. After all, they weren’t allowed to work overtime. So as long as the next job assigned to them couldn’t be completed by quitting time, they were allowed to come back to the dispatch and wait out their shift.
It was horrifying to me, and was my first experience with the very prevalent attitude of entitlement. I don’t ever want my kids to think that this kind of behavior is justifiable. You should not get paid with taxpayer dollars to do nothing.
All around me, people are claiming entitlement to something. It’s epidemic and frightening. So I’ve been asking myself – how did my parents model a strong work ethic for me and how can I model thankfulness for my kids instead of entitlement? These two concepts go hand-in-hand.
Do you want to know what the biggest difference was? My parents treated everything they had as if it was a gift from God. Every piece of food and the land to grow it on, every article of clothing, every ounce of time in their possession came from God. They modeled an attitude of gratitude and they lived like they meant it.
1. We thanked God for our food at every meal. It may seem old-fashioned, but it was a daily reminder that our food was a blessing from God.
2. We were taught to use the time God has given us. We played, for sure. But we also helped dig potatoes and deliver the bags of extras to elderly people who couldn’t get out on their own but still lived at home, and to other friends and church members who enjoyed my dad’s extra produce.
3. We didn’t just pray about food – we prayed about people, and God’s creation, and all of the amazing gifts He has given us. In fact, I can remember my big brother trying to get me in trouble for always having short, “Thank you for the food” type prayers. I didn’t get in trouble, but my dad definitely modeled praying about everything.
As a parent myself, I have our kids take turns praying at each meal, but I do purpose to take a turn myself pretty frequently or ask grandparents to pray when they visit, to make sure they hear adults thanking God for all that He has given us.
James 1:17Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.
A Strong Work Ethic
A strong work ethic naturally flows from an attitude of gratitude and vice versa. If your time is a gift from God and belongs to Him, you will be more inclined to work hard and do your best, as unto the Lord, especially in light of all the many gifts He has given us.
1. My dad worked hard all the time. He always made sure to go above and beyond his calling as a minister and was available 24/7. He balanced this by taking us along with him when he made social calls, attending all of our basketball games and choir events, and helping us with math in the evenings.
2. My mom made meals together a priority. She cooked a family meal most nights. In my eighteen years at home, we ate most meals together. Even though she worked all day as a teacher at an elementary school 30 minutes away, she still came home each night and cooked a full meal. That’s a work ethic. I don’t even work outside the home, and I still do not have a home-cooked meal on the table every single night. That’s why we have take-out Tuesday in our home!
3. My parents were available to help when needed. When he was younger, my dad would help lay roofs, dig footers for new foundations, lay brick, and jump right in with whatever the local farmer was doing when Dad arrived on a call. Even now, in his seventies, my dad routinely helps my sister with her latest remodeling project and takes extra produce to all of the families in his congregation. He is available to help.
How do you model thankfulness for your kids?