I Think We May Be Missing Something Very Important

It was a hot February day in Texas. We only had a handful of volunteers and hundreds of needy refugees had already formed a line, so everybody had a job. Even our kids. Especially our kids.

From across the parking lot, I watched my 14 year old give directions to the handful of kids barely taller than her waist. This small army of children were  in charge of the mound of toiletry and hygiene items we were sharing with refugees in our city.

I blinked back tears as they divided the supplies into over 100 paper sacks.

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They sorted donations, led refugee families around the free garage sale, and collected their vouchers for needed items.

They worked for hours and never complained.

Earlier in the weekend, I felt guilty for roping my family into all this extra work. What started out as a simple yes, ended up being a time-consuming-several-day event that is now an on-going service project.

Volunteers helped us organize and sort a truckload of donations, spread out on our driveway. When my 6th and 8th grade kids got off the bus, their friends asked if we were hoarders.

I think that might be called Junior High persecution.

sorting donations

As I watched my kids work hard in preparation for that day, jump in and serve refugees and navigate a language barrier, I quickly realized they didn’t need an apology for not making the weekend fun! filled with more stuff! just for them! all about them!

It reminded me how healthy a bit of hard work is for all of us and how rewarding it is to serve other people. 

As parents I think we’ve missed something very important in our culture. In an effort to make family a priority and give our kids what we didn’t have, we’ve become a child-focused culture. In many ways, we’ve lost our purpose. The sense of entitlement our kids exhibit is fueled by a parenting model that is obsessed with giving our children what they want and by making our kids the center of our lives.

In a way, we are just too into this parenting thing. We used to have birthday parties where A CAKE made it special and now it’s an EVENT. We used to pass out store bought Valentine cards, now we have them professionally printed with photographs and candy and goodie bags and mylar balloon bouquets. We used to play outside with sticks and get dirty; now kids have a variety of expensive game systems and a lot of technology at their disposal.

This quote by Jerry Seinfeld made me laugh because it’s so true. But then it really made me think.

The bedtime routine for my kids is a royal coronation jubilee centennial of rinsing and plaque and dental appliances and the stuffed animal semi circle of emotional support. I have to read 8 different moron books to my kids. Do you know what my bedtime story was when I was a kid? DARKNESS. My parents would yell “Go to bed!”

We’ve all probably done the bedtime dance. I remember one of my kids had to have a certain color of pacifier to HOLD in her hand before she’d sleep. So, clearly, I’m no expert here. I’m learning from my parenting mistakes, too.

But in centering our world around our children and giving into their demands, we foster entitlement.

Most entitlement begins because we lack the courage to tell our children no or because we don’t exhibit the strength to keep our no a no

We continue to enable entitlement by rewarding our kids for everything they do.

We may be taking away the sense of satisfaction and pride that comes from genuine achievement.” Jason Walsh, a special education teacher in Washington, D.C., witnessed this firsthand during his school’s fifth-grade graduation ceremonies. Some students received as many as 14 different awards. “The majority of the students didn’t know what their awards really meant,” says Walsh. The honors “didn’t reinforce a specific achievement—but a sense of entitlement and of being great.”

Kids don’t need more stars and stickers.

They need more hard work.

Kids don’t need more activities.

They need more unstructured time.

Kids don’t need more stuff.

They need more opportunities to give their stuff away.

Kids don’t need more store-bought or manufactured fun.

They need freedom to create their own.

Teaching our kids about serving

I looked at my exhausted, dirty children who gobbled down sandwiches in the car on the way home after our full day of serving, grinning silly and full and I didn’t feel bad at all. 

Because I realized I had given them something money couldn’t buy. I had offered them something more valuable than the latest technology or hottest brand. I had given them perspective. And opportunity.

A few days later, I wanted to reward my kids. I’m definitely not against a pat on the back. But as I offered a small token for their great attitudes and hard work, it occurred to me they didn’t need a sticker or star or reward from me for serving others. It was time for me to change the way I parent.

Because working hard and serving others was their reward. Just ask them.

Comments

  1. 1

    says

    Amen and amen. Have you ever heard of the book Living in the Age of Entitlement? Fascinating read for us parents and really eye-opening when it comes to what our culture is doing to our kids. Unfortunately for my kids, I HAVE read it:) Here’s to service as rewards!

    • 2.1

      ROD STECKLER says

      No Ashely, it’s really just common sense, and I speak with absolutely NO malice, whatsoever. This is such a common, yet serious, mistake…THINK about it. The manufacturers of everything, be it toys, clothes, games, technology, sports…you name it…who do they target, from day one…SELL the kids, and you’ve got them, hook-line-and sinker. They own any and every BODY & SOUL that is too weak, or thinks they are too busy, to educate themselves and resist. It’s an ongoing, and vicious cycle. I’ve seen and know children whose guardians bought and or stoled/robbed them of the opportunity to learn the value of hard heart-centered work, like that described in this article. For your children’s sake…quit spoiling / ruining the future…Learn to say, and mean, “NO”. Explain to them “WHY” if you think necessary, but teach them that “NO” is a valid response to their whining, and constantly expecting everything.
      Did you notice that, like her children, she also felt better after her epiphany?
      Prep them for the real world…one in which they WON’T always get what they want.

  2. 3

    says

    This is fantastic & genius. As a youth “director” I utilize this every chance I get. Serving, sharing, and equipping them into being able to share and serve willingly. It’s part of what we do as a Youth group. They don’t use their “budget” on themselves. If they want money for missions, fun, food, etc they have to earn it with fundraisers, babysitting, and serving. I’ve received some eye rolls, “uh” moments, and pouting, but in the end when they’re working together it’s all worth it. When the goal of working together to serve others and not themselves becomes NORMAL, then we have something…a movement and loads of precious memories.

    Thank You for teaching us, too.

  3. 4

    says

    I LOVE it when I can find ways for our family to serve together. With younger children it’s very hard to places that will allow them to help or projects that are appropriate for them, BUT we keep searching and God has been faithful to give us opportunities. I love seeing families serving together – it is a gift to the whole family!

    • 4.1

      Hope says

      I absolutely love this article. I have had such a hard time finding places to serve with my kids! (Now 2 and 5) The places I’ve called have all had age limits of 14-16 & it’s been really discouraging. We do Operation Christmas child and serve in church but I want something we can do regularly. My current idea is to have umbrellas & wear raincoats at a grocery store (after getting permission) and help people to their cars during summer rains and make cookies for firemen (although the cookies are not really serving I guess). I’d love to hear any ideas you have for service ideas for the younger set!

      • 4.1.1

        Tammy says

        I got together with several of the other moms in my area with young kids (1-4 years old) and we got in touch with the local nursing home. Once a month we take the kids to the nursing home and they spend an hour playing and interacting with the seniors in the home. Simple things like tossing a balloon or bubbles (so nothing breaks) and they all get so much enjoyment from it.

        • 4.1.1.1

          Kim says

          I agree that nursing homes are a great place for younger kids, even babies and toddlers, to be a blessing to others. It really means a lot to the elderly to have young ones visit, and my family has been blessed by the relationships with them as well. If you have a volunteer organization in your area that ministers to the elderly or handicapped in their homes, that can be a place to start as well. Helping to dust the home of an elderly asthmatic, or rake leaves, can be a practical way to help, but most important is taking a little time to sit and talk, and let your kids talk to them. It’s a great way to share your heart for loving with your little ones!

          • 4.1.1.1.1

            Hope says

            But see, that’s the very problem I’m having. When I was growing up, my mom would take me to do little shows at nursing homes (I’m a musician & started violin at 4) and so naturally that’s where I thought to start. But the one near me says you have to be 16, go through a background check & be fingerprinted JUST TO VOLUNTEER! I mean, I can appreciate that they want to protect the residents, but it just seems so sad & crazy that a mom and her children can’t come to visit or do music or whatever without red tape. I do know of one that will let us come in but it’s about 45 minutes away. Just hoping to find something closer to where we are and also for some creative ideas. I do like the idea of getting together with other moms; maybe they would be more amenable to a group coming or something.

      • 4.1.2

        Carolyn says

        I think your ideas are great! It is hard to come up with something to do with the smaller children, so something you can do at home and deliver would be great. I’m sure the firemen would appreciate cookies, and I’ve considered contacting them to bring them a whole meal, since they’re there for such a long period of time. You could also deliver a meal to a Ronald McDonald House or similar in your area, or participate in a summer project like lemonade/bake sale for a children’s hospital or hungry kids–Food Network sponsors something along those lines.

        • 4.1.2.1

          Alan says

          This is not only for youngsters. I coach high school volleyball and I have taken my team (10-12 grade) to a local dimentia unit where my mother in law lives. The girls love going and creating christmas stockings, working puzzles, and interacting with the residents. We sing songs with them and even though the residents won’t remember them being there due to the dimentia, for a short time they have a good time and have smiles on their faces. The girls will remember these moments for a lifetime as I have seen some of them cry while “socializing” with the residents. The hardest part is getting them to put their phones away long enough to engage with an actual person instead of a virtual person.

      • 4.1.3

        MicheB says

        Contact your county’s MEALS ON WHEELS. Young children may accompany their grown up! Great opportunity for young and old!!!

      • 4.1.4

        Jessie says

        My son is 5 now, and for the past two years, we have been having “owie crafty day” every weekend. On Saturday, we take all manner of arts and crafts supplies, and create all sorts of cards and paper animals and set them out overnight (usually to dry). Then on Sunday, we give them away. We take them to a local hospital, a homeless shelter, a soup kitchen, or a place that provides any sort of emergency service. Jimmy loves to work with his hands, and he loves to make people smile. Once a month we even have him pick a family from crafty day to invite to have dinner with us, and I cook a huge meal. He always seems to pick the ones in the worst situations. Let your children decide how to serve. Trust me, its much more of a blessing that way, for everyone involved.

      • 4.1.5

        says

        I took my grandkids to visit people in the neighborhood who were shutins, those with health problems or the elderly or just plain lonely. I prepped them by talking to them about how much happiness they can bring to others just by sharing themselves and showing interest in others. This helped them overcome any tendency toward shyness or being too quiet. Then when we got there, they might sing a song they had learned or give a little talk they had learned or show them something they had learned or done. They also could ask them about things they saw in their home that people often love talking about. They would sometimes visit the same people more than once which created a bond and when they would see them in the store, they would run up and give them a hug. This was a very natural way for young children who love so easily to bless others lives and we would talk afterward about how happy it makes others. They soon started asking if we could go visit.

      • 4.1.6

        says

        We have practiced this at an early age by serving within the family- draw a name and do nice things for them (keep it secret for extra fun!), do each other’s chores, send artwork & notes to family members, make gifts for each other, make treats to take to an elderly neighbor.
        Mine have also sold baked goods and sent the money to a charity. Any other money earned they have been taught to tithe some of it. Later they can get out and do other types of service.

    • 4.2

      Laura says

      Our local food pantry allows all ages to come help pack boxes for their distribution days. I’ve been many times with my children- ages 7, 5, and 3. They love it! See if you have something similar in your area!

  4. 7

    Lani says

    “I slept and dreamt that life was joy
    I awoke and saw that life was service,
    I acted and behold, service was joy ”
    Tagore
    Bengali poet

  5. 8

    Nicole says

    Just this weekend our priest spoke about service. He told us we find happiness in serving. And yes so right. I’ve been thinking about it since he said it.

  6. 9

    Jennifer says

    New Horizons For Children is the ministry we have linked arms with as a family. My four kids have been learning service and sacrifice for 6 years by loving others in the Name of Jesus!

    • 9.1

      says

      Jennifer, I just wanted to jump in and let you know that we had our first experience of serving with New Horizons for Children this past Christmas and it has completely changed our family. Such a great organization, and an honor to see our children sacrifice their time and resources to pour into someone else.

      Kristen, I love this post and I could not agree with you more. My husband and I made a big shift in how we spend time as a family a couple of years ago, and we’ve seen our children blossom because of it. What we’ve learned more than anything is that kids LOVE to serve. They really enjoy it – they just need someone to give them the opportunity.

    • 9.2

      Michelle says

      We just heard about NHFC and signed up to host a child this summer! My kids (6-11) are excitedly learning new words so they can say some things to him in his own language. :)

  7. 12

    Jaci says

    I love this! My 4 yr old has a sense of entitlement that drives me bonkers!! I truly don’t think we enable much but I know it has to come from somewhere so in kinda confused! Maybe we just don’t require enough service of others?!
    I too have a hard time coming up with ideas & ways to serve my kids are 4 & 7 but my 7 yr old has DS so he is limited a bit. Ideas would be great!!

    • 12.1

      Laura says

      Service starts in the home toward other family members and should branch out from there. If your children aren’t used to helping happily in the home it would be a disaster to take them out and have them try elsewhere. Children the age of yours can wash dishes, clean toilets, pick up toys and clothes, wash laundry, sweep, mop, etc. All of this is with your guidance (they will get to the point that they can do it by themselves.) Work happily with them. Teach them that serving Daddy is a way to bless him. Teach them that looking for ways to help each other is a good thing. Teach them that serving others is a way to serve God. Teach them about going the second mile. You can do it momma! Just a word of warning. They will probably fuss now and again about it, but keep going. You will reap if you faint not.

        • 12.1.1.1

          j lopez says

          One should not expect to be served, but should be pleased when one is served. The point of service is to give selflessly. Expecting it is not teaching to give selflessly.

        • 12.1.1.2

          says

          Jenelle….of course they should serve everyone in the family. Daddy was just used as an example, but thanks for calling that to our attention.

  8. 13

    says

    I have two grown kids. I started out being a very child/family focused parent, but God put our family in a ministry which forced us to move into a more balanced approach. When parents are child focused, I do believe it begins with good intentions. Over the years I learned to celebrate my children (focusing on them) but we also celebrated anyone who came to our door (they learned to serve). If we swing to far to either extreme, our children can be hurt by it. God taught me how to celebrate the individuals He gave me in my family…and taught me how to draw others in and serve at the same time. The result is two kids in their 20’s who know they are loved and who love people . We can meet their needs (and even some wants) as individuals, and still be a family who serve our heads off!!! If our children are celebrated and shown grace every day, they will learn how to do that for others! God will do that work in their heart! It’s a beautiful work he does!

  9. 16

    says

    Amen! I certainly have been switching my focus on parenting lately. I am sooooo tired of every little thing being a production. It’s doing our kids no good by making them think that every thing they do is special. It’s just setting them up for a huge disappointment in the “real world”.

    My oldest daughter is going to her first middle school dance on Friday. It’s a dance with a chance to dress up. But, I informed her I am not buying a $80-100 dress that she will only wear once. She’s in 6th grade for crying out loud! This dress must be able to be used for 2 (preferably 3) functions…the dance, Easter and my sister’s wedding in May. She had a very specific style of dress in mind and she stuck to her ideal. Then, on Instagram, her friends posted pictures of their dresses. Can you say, “prom dress”?! Did I mention it’s for a 6th grade spring dance? (sigh) Fortunately she still loves her simple, pretty spring dress. Of course, she is 12 and her opinion could change…probably at the last minute, the day of the dance!

  10. 17

    Bonnie says

    Excellent! I really enjoyed reading this and I think by allowing your children to contribute, you are affirming their value as children! I just finished reading g Weds Stafford’ s “Too Small to Ignore; Why the Least of These Matters Most.” His entire book is about affirming the value of children and allowing them to contribute to our families, our churches and our world!
    Anyway, you did a great job revealing how we tend to gravitate towards child-centric familes. I enjoyed reading this very much! Thanks! God bless you!!
    P.S. I ordered Live Mercy t-shirts for my girls for Christmas–they wanna go to Africa now-especially my 14 year old!!:)

  11. 18

    says

    The reason we avoid saying “no” is not because we are afraid, or because we are not strong enough to follow through (that might be part of it, but that’s not all of it, in my experience). It’s because we are incredibly busy, working longer hours, with more non-work commitments than ever before. So in the two hours we have with our kids, we want to enjoy them, not be the boundary-setter and disciplinarian. It’s much nicer (in the short run, anyways) to just say, “Okay, you can have ice cream” and see a huge smile. Teaching children important things like values and character takes time.

  12. 21

    says

    AMEN! Love this. Just this morning I had to tell my son NO. I find myself celebrating the extremely rare moments his friends are told NO! It makes me feel like I am not alone. As a family we work hard on raising our kids in the world but not of the world. Our family could certainly strive to letting our service be our reward. Thank you for this perspective.

  13. 22

    says

    My sister founded a group in her area and a friend and I have started a chapter in our area called the Kids Volunteer Network. This was created because we found it was difficult to find local charities and service programs willing to accept children as volunteers. We solved this problem by creating opportunities for kids to serve their communities and donate all of the profits or resources to local charities. I would love to see this grow and grow across the country. Please check out our website at http://www.kidsvn.org and consider starting your very own chapter in your area. One of our members (an 8 year old) told us the other day that she loves volunteering with us because it makes her “feel alive.” That really says it all!

  14. 23

    PJ says

    My wife sent this to me at work this morning and I initially thought we were missing something important like a mortgage payment or something similar. After reading this I have realized that my wife and I are missing something greater in our house while raising our three kids (6, 3.5, 2), actually our kids are missing something, and it’s everything you mentioned in this article. Thank you a million times over. I can’t wait to reread and discuss this with my wife, Ali. God bless!!

  15. 25

    says

    Being the center of anyone’s universe is very stressful. There’s a reason so many kids are depressed and anxious – when the sun rises and sets on you and your accomplishments, that’s a lot of pressure. Thanks for this article – I have never been a proponent of child-centered parenting. I’m sure I’ve been guilty of it, but as a former teacher, we are crippling our kids when we don’t expect anything from them and cater to their every need.

  16. 26

    Katharine says

    Thanks for this. You are so right.
    Children need boundaries or they get nervous about their safety, which turns them into master-manipulators. Ick.
    Strictly enforced boundaries with great loving kindness makes kids turn our right.

  17. 28

    says

    I love how you say that in some ways “we’re just too into this parenting thing.”
    Sometimes I think parents worship the idea of being a perfect parent more than the reality. They want parenting to look like magazines rather than asking what their specific kids need to learn and what is best for the family.
    I grew up with 6 siblings and one thing I learned that was so important was to sometimes sacrifice what I wanted for the group:
    Sorry, we can’t go swimming because your sister has a cold.
    Could you help your brother learn the days of the week song?
    Can you sit between your brother and sister in the car, even though you’re taller, so they don’t fight?

  18. 29

    says

    I agree 100%. And helping others is addicting. Once you get your kids involved, they won’t want to stop. And material stuff/entertainment-as-usual just won’t be good enough for them anymore. It’s beautiful.

  19. 30

    says

    This is great. I plan to share on one of my blogs.

    And it’s perfect for the situation we are in. We are in the process of trying to figure out what God has for us next, and the question of “What about our kids?” has come up several times.

  20. 31

    Faith says

    Thank you so much for putting this in words! I love it! Brings tears to my eyes! Especially after a particularly trying day with my kids! You are so right & I love the bedtime quote!

  21. 32

    Myra says

    I am a mother of 4 all grown, most with children of their own. “Service” doesn’t have to be a Hugh project, think service to family as in ” chores , helping an elderly neighbor, working together with Sunday school, brownies, boy scouts, etc. start small, everything doesn’t have to be huge to make the difference. Most foundations begin with small grains of sand to provide the solid base for the bigger structure.

  22. 33

    Sharon Doolittle says

    The children of today are “punished by rewards”. This is not my term, but Alfie Kohn as he has done a lot of research on it. Children become less and less motivated as we praise and reward them. We want them to be intrinsically motivated and today’s parents are not letting this happen. We try to fix everything for them and do not let them figure out anything on their own. By not letting them play pick up games in the neighborhood we are robbing them of the opportunity to learn how to make rules, negotiate and get along with others. So, our children of today cannot get along and teachers spend way too much time trying to settle conflicts. Alfie Kohn has a book “Punished By Rewards” – a great read for all of today’s parents.

  23. 36

    says

    THANK YOU for saying what I’ve been thinking and feeling for a very long time but couldn’t find the words. This is brilliant. Kids just want to be kids. And they don’t need mani- pedi-s at age 9!

  24. 37

    Margie says

    Well, you’re absolutely right! We have enabled our kids to have a sense of entitlement because–fair warning: many of you won’t like hearing this but it is the truth–moms went to work (*this is not directed to those who TRULY needed to work—but to those who want more, more, more). Moms feel (with good reason) guilty for leaving their child(ren) and going back to work. Guilty mom buys and gives child(ren) “things’ to make up for leaving the children. In some way, this makes up for mom being absent. Naturally, initially, child(ren) loves the newest toy/gadget/electronic and appears happy. Mom sees this as making it all okay that she is away from the home and someone else is taking care of/raising her children while she works on her ‘career’ and makes more and more money for the nicer car, the bigger house, the designer clothes and so on. Because that’s important…… Mom continues to buy gifts (I mean her childrens’ affections). Eventually, kids no longer appreciate these gifts that Mom thinks are letting her off the hook. Now the kids EXPECT it. It’s no longer a ‘treat’ or a ‘surprise’–it’s expected! And it goes without saying that each gift HAS to be nicer/cooler/more expensive than the one before! And I bet the child/ren stopped saying “Thank you” a loooooooong time ago. No need to. They know more stuff is coming!!
    Honestly, what have we done?!?! Stay home with your children. Love them. Read to them. Over and over again!!! They want your TIME!! They don’t want to see the top of your head while your face is buried in your email or your posts on fb. Close the laptop. Get off your phone. You’re flatter yourself that you’re THAT important that you must answer a text or post on fb immediately!! You know years ago, we TALKED to people on the phone…..that was still attached to the wall!!! What a better life! This selfish immediate gratification generation is missing out on so much. We’ve become such a selfish nation. We ALL think we are entitled to having it all right out of the gate! Our kids are what we teach them. If we don’t like what they are becoming, it’s time for the teacher to teach differently. When it’s all said and done, you’ll NEVER find yourself saying, “I wish I had more things in my life” but you will find your self saying, “I wish I had spent more time with my children.” They need you. Not to be a friend, but to be a parent. They’ll have plenty of friends–some of whom you as a parent need to steer them in another direction! Don’t pacify them with gadgets and gizmos because you don’t want to take the time. Have any idea what they are learning from all the electronic and social media they are using?! you’d be shocked. And don’t put them in front of the tv or computer/laptop. So much trash……. Be a mom and dad to them. That is what they really need. Be engaged. Stay home with your kids. Moms who have chosed out of want rather than necessity to go back to work are just being selfish. And our children are paying the price. A stay at home mom is some of the hardest work you will ever do. And nothing is more rewarding. I don’t want to hear–I want to work on my career. “GET OVER YOURSELF!!” Really, who are you?! Take care of your children–THAT is your career. Don’t want to do that then don’t have them! They want, need and deserve more than just your casual hello, how was your day, let’s eat, now goodnight for an hour or two at night. Be present. Love your children. Change the world.

  25. 38

    says

    Great write up. I have one teenage girl and I go in waves with this. Some days/weeks/months I’m on the ball about not revolving life around our teenager (and letting her see it’s not all about her). Other days/weeks/months it all goes to pot and it is a lot of work to reel us both back in. She has traveled to third world countries and befriended kids at schools in those countries so this helps the “want more” a bit.

  26. 39

    Laura says

    While I understand where the author is coming from, and even agree with some of it, including some of the comments, I have to say that a reward for a job well done has worked very well for us as parents, and we do not have whiny bratty children. Our now teenage daughters are polite and respectful. They go to work to do their jobs as students every day. They do not have to be reminded about their homework, or chores, and help out without complaining when asked.
    For this they are rewarded, being allowed to go to a concert, upgrading a phone, getting a new CD, etc. This doesn’t happen weekly, or even every other week, but these girls work hard for us, and we, in turn, give them that “cookie” every once in a while to show them we recognize it and respect their effort. At the same time, we point out to them that if they want to be able to afford these types of things after they’ve left high school, they will have to carry forward the same work ethic through college and their chosen careers.
    I do not consider this spoiling or catering to. I am frequently complemented on how kind, gracious and delightful my girls are, I know that this style of parenting isn’t for everyone, but it works for us.

  27. 40

    Toni says

    Virtually every man, woman and child in our town learned this lesson in May 2011 when a large tornado destroyed about a third of Joplin, MO. We worked many weeks to help neighbors sift through the remnants of their homes. We worked in make shift medical clinics and tended to physical needs. We cooked meals for the thousands who volunteered their time and talents to tearing down and rebuilding. We laundered clothing for utility workers who came from all over the country to reestablish the electric and the communication grid. The list goes on and on! These were both horrific and wonderful times. I hope we never have to go through anything like this again but it was a precious and cherished time we were allowed to experience.

  28. 41

    says

    When I read this, I thought about a mission trip I attended in Ghana. The people there are beautiful, generous and intelligent. But do they coddle their children? Absolutely not. It was almost alarming, maybe even insulting to my sensibilities until I really got my brain around it. They love their kids and enable them to be functional adults. They might have one or two toys, or they share the one half-broken see-saw in the local church’s yard. The parents didn’t fight to have their kids be first in line (or even ahead of themselves) for the dentist we brought, which is how it might have been in our culture. But those kids, in their own way, will be better off than our own when they’re older. Something to think about.

    My own daughter has a giving heart and just told me she wants to do her next birthday party at the local food pantry, as she did last year. Maybe this year I’ll leave out the jubilee centennial super-epic birthday cake. ;)

  29. 44

    Steve Jones says

    Well done lady! Great post. This is something Patricia and I have worked at for years. It is so hard to fight this self-focused culture. None of us do it perfectly, but we have to keep trying.

  30. 45

    Adoptive mama says

    What a great post! This pretty much sums up how we parented our oldest children, now adults. My struggle is with the new baby of the family. After adopting a child with special needs and raised in an orphanage I wrestle with balance. Wanting to make up for all this child didn’t have in the early years, be it clothing, toys, therapies and fun things to do. Sadly I see many families in the same community of families adopting that are making the same mistakes. These children are told by the orphanage workers how great their lives will be in their new families and become holy terrors when healthy boundaries are set. I worry about these children / families. Because of our child’s disabilities I am able to reel things back in when needed with no consequence. Trying to find balance in it all……..

  31. 47

    Betsy says

    In our defense, that bedtime routine was shoved down our throats from every angle. I had three kids spread over 20 years. With the first one the doctor told me not to feed her at night and discipline starts from birth and she was sleeping all night by the end of two weeks. She put herself to sleep every night after that. With the second one the doctor told me to feed him on demand. He was still climbing in our bed when he was seven. By that time the bedtime routine was the solution to getting them to sleep in their own bed. When the third one came along, it was survival mode. I did whatever I had to do just to get through it and ignored all the wonderful advice of experts. She was a delight. Obviously the first method was best for the working parent, but I’m not sure it fostered security. The second method was definitely wrong. The third method worked well, but by then I wasn’t a working mother and could afford to take whatever time I needed to insure it worked out well. So I say “do whatever works” since all of my kids turned out fine. Children need your love and attention and you choose how you spend the time you have with them. They grow up much too quickly.

  32. 48

    says

    Love this!! I have 3 kids. It’s been my experience that if you try to fill up their lives with nothing Stuff and Non-Stop Adventure, it ultimately makes them unhappy b/c it’s not filling their emotional needs and because you can’t keep doing it forever. The more chores I have my kids do, the happier they seem to be– (not really a lot, just counting on them to do stuff like feed pets/load & unload dishes/take out trash). Counterintuitive? I think chores and community service make kids feel needed and necessary– and that gives them confidence and contentment. I’ve spent time with kids whose parents give them all the material things they could want, never make them lift a finger or help anyone, and they are the most unpleasant unkind little people who complain and kvetch about everything. I feel badly for them.

  33. 49

    says

    So so agree.
    A hundred things are coming to mind and it would take an hour at least to share why I think you are so right.
    Suffice to say I have gotten a lot of flack for not being as “hands on” or as involved as others in my parenting circle think I should be. For having the mindset that I am raising them to leave me — to go and have their own full life; rather than trying to hold on to them as littles forever. I think it’s more important that I prepare them for leaving the nest – than finding ways to keep them in it.
    I definitely see the “me-ism” creeping up because I thought I was supposed to focus all my energy, all my time, give up so much of me — just to make every moment matter to them.
    Because yep — now they tend to think that every single moment: is about them.

  34. 51

    Angela N says

    Hi played with sticks and in the dirt because we couldn’t afford anything else and my parents had darkness and not much time for hugs and kisses either but while that all seems romanticized in retrospect the truth is that I don’t have a great relationship with my parents. I’m hoping by doing parent differently than they did, by cuddling and reading 8 stories at bedtime I will have a close relationship with my kids because they are my center for just a short time. As for the Valentine’s and video games well, I think that we can’t blame society for that. You can only control what is in your own home. A friend of mine recently complained that Easter had become ridiculous and kids expected as many presents as Christmas. I was a little confused because for some reason the blame seemed to be placed on stores and the Easter Bunny himself and not on the people actually buying the hordes of Easter gifts.

  35. 53

    says

    As a retired teacher, I can tell you that you did a marvelous thing for your children.
    I love reading this, and I’m going to share it hoping other young parents will read it and see that they are responsible for how their children react to society. I could go on and on, but you already know what I mean.

  36. 54

    says

    I feel like a broken record because I tell this story so much but…when we lived in England when my children first started going to school. Every day after school the kids and parents would go across the street from the school into a little park, not a playground, just a field. The parents would sit and talk and the kids would play ball, chase or anything else they came up with. It was awesome but I am not sure I knew how awesome until we came back to the states and moved into a community that was all about the competition. There is a huge field at our school and a playground. School is within walking distance of every house in the community and yet few walk to school and even fewer walk home. There is no social interaction because little Johnnie has soccer practice, play rehearsal or ballet lessons. It is ridiculous. Together another mom on my street and I decided that we had had enough. We pulled the kids out of most after school activities and said, “out the door with you.” They are so much happier now. I watch them running around the yard, building snow tunnels, play ball and just being kids. It was one of the best decisions I ever made.

  37. 55

    Christina Steed says

    amen- I have four and it is a constant struggle as I live in an affluent city- I also recommend the Book “The Price of Privilege” great read on similar vein and how our efforts as parents to make it all OK is actually hindering our kids.

  38. 56

    Michelle says

    I heard you on the radio today while flipping through channels. I tuned in as you were talking about how you don’t want your children to fit in with this world, and I was immediately hooked. I listened to every word nodding in agreement, and had to look up this blog as soon as I got home! What a wonderful, refreshing perspective you have!

  39. 57

    says

    I love this so much! My son informed me the other day that his friends think I’m mean because he doesn’t have a cell phone, has to do a bunch of chores and has to help watch his siblings sometimes. I still think they have way too much crap, but I’m quite content to be mean. I want my children to learn to work hard!

  40. 58

    Jamie Garcia says

    I was once told the goal of Christian parenting is “to make kids Holy, not happy”, and it really has shaped our parenting as we understand that statement more and more.

  41. 60

    says

    I love this post. I struggle with the balance between keeping my kids involved and not making them the center of everything. It seems everything in society is against that belief. I want to raise my kids to be strong, independent adults. Which means not praising them the way society tells us to praise them. Our 3 kids our in Montessori school, and the thing I like most is the focus on intrinsic motivation. Which means no stickers, no stars, no good jobs. The question they are asked most is “Are you proud?” What I do tell my kids everyday after school is that I love them. Isn’t that all our kids really need to know?

  42. 61

    says

    Thanks for this great reminder of what parenting should look like. Even though we are a very, “you must earn what you get” family, my daughter has a certain level of entitlement that I am not pleased about. I think it is actually in part my own fault, as I do make things too-child centered. It’s a hard balance to make.

  43. 62

    says

    I wholeheartedly agree! Since we have begun working with disaster relief efforts, our kids have really matured and been given a new purpose/outlook on life – they notice others more and are less self-focused. Right now we are in Augusta, GA where our 3 oldest (and hubby) leave the RV every morning by 7 in order to help with ice storm cleanup. Next month we will spend several weeks in Oklahoma helping with tornado rebuilds and storm shelter installs. It is not always convenient to serve, but we are called to do it, and are so thankful for the benefits that we have seen in our children’s lives from it.
    Getting families out there in service related activities will change our society for the better.

  44. 63

    amy says

    Kristen,

    I wonder if you might sometime tackle what the modern church is doing/not doing to equip our kids? I feel completely let down by the local church. They are feeding my children milk when they’re ready for real spiritual food.

    Thanks!

    P.S. I don’t have Outlook installed on my device so I couldn’t e-mail you.

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