by Jennie Smith
Secondary Assistant Principal
Are your kids like mine? Do you constantly fight the “Mom, can I have…” battle? I have been pondering the value of contentment lately. We live in a fiercely discontent world; everyone is looking for bigger, better, and newer. Our children are caught in the midst of this battle and so many times they are swept away in the whirlwind of covetousness.
I’ve been taken aback by the Scriptures’ warning on such issues. Take for example I Timothy 6:6-10:
“But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs” (ESV).
Which of us wants our children to fall into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires, into ruin and destruction, to wander away from the faith or to pierce themselves with many pangs? So my big question recently has been: How do I assist my children in fighting this discontent?
I Timothy 6:11 continues: “But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, and gentleness.” Instead of pursuing material things, we are to run after the things God. I’ve been looking for opportunities for my children to pursue the things of God – to change their focus from the material goods they long to have. So what are some tangible ways of going about that? Here are some ideas I have discovered:
Work as a Team
Sometimes our children pick up discontent from us, as their parents. What are we discussing in front of them? Are we longing for things we can’t have? What our children see displayed in us will be echoed in their own hearts and lives. I find that I make so much more headway with my boys when I go to them, admit my error, and commit to doing things God’s way. Is this an area that the whole family can work on together?
Put Up Some Help
Type out and frame some of the great verses that deal with this issue. Put them on display for the whole family to see. One of my more recent favorites is Hebrews 13:5. “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have because God has said ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you'” (NIV). I remember verses that were hanging in my childhood home; it’s a great, quiet way to allow your children to store God’s word in their heart. Maybe some of your older children can help with this project.
My children love to wander through the toy section of any store. Of course, this naturally leads to the “I want..” and “Can I have…” moments. Instead, I ask them who else would like to have that? I also ask, “If you could pick out one toy for _____ what would it be and why?” They get to look at the toys, but the focus changes from themselves to others.
Sometimes the value of the dollar is lost on children. So when my older two began to ask for big ticket items, I encouraged them to begin to save their money. Then I looked for ways to let them earn some. I offer paid chores every weekend. It may take them awhile to earn enough, but when they do so, they value that toy so much more.
Living a life with gratitude has helped my attitude, and I think it would help my children as well. I have bought them each a blank hard back book and am going to ask them to make a “Thankfulness Book.” You could use scrapbooking supplies to accomplish this. Since they created it themselves, it may take a more prominent place in their room and remind them of all the ways God has already blessed them.
Paul says in Philippians that he has learned the secret of being content. It is something that is learned – not something we naturally have or crave. I certainly haven’t learned enough. If you have more ideas for assisting in godly contentment with children, please share in the comments below. You know what Paul’s secret is? “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:11-13, ESV). We can do it, but we certainly need the Lord to be at work in the hearts and lives of the children he has entrusted to us.