When I was 9 years old, I got something I really wanted for Christmas: a fancy version of an Etch-a-Sketch.
For all intents and purposes, I should have been happy. But instead, I burst into tears after opening all my presents and feeling like I didn’t have “enough”.
Looking back, I obviously realize that this was a very immature and un-thankful response on my part. I remember my mom trying to reason with me and I was having none of it. My poor mother!
Twenty-some years later, my husband and I are raising four children in a world that is full of a sense of entitlement. Learning self-control is exchanged for unbridled self-indulgence. It’s easy for our kids to “catch” this belief system and “recovery” can be difficult and frustrating.
So how do we “un-spoil” our kids, especially at Christmas-time? There are four effective strategies that have been working for us and are helpful for steering our children’s hearts and minds away from their selfishness and toward a more contented spirit.
Cultivate Contentment in Your Own Life
If my children are constantly hearing me complain about what I do or don’t have, wondering where the money has gone at the end of the month or bemoaning our inability to purchase the newest technology, most expensive toys or a new car, I certainly can’t expect them to be content themselves!
3 Bible verses on contentment that I find helpful to bring to mind when I’m feeling ungrateful:
For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? Matthew 6:25-27
Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU.” Hebrews 13:5
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. 1 Timothy 6:6-8
Contentment is something I struggle with often. I find that making it a point to look around me and be thankful for how God has provided for our family gives me relief from my me-first attitude. Recalling those blessings with our family has become a common part of our prayer time as well!
Teach Your Child to Look Outward Instead of Just Inward
Here are several things we have done with our kids to teach them to “consider others as better than themselves”:
- Have them look through the Samaritan’s Purse Christmas Gift Catalog and pick a cause to give to. There are many causes that you can support and teach your children to give generously!
- Bring them to a place (at the right age) where they can serve a holiday meal.
- Take them to the store to buy items for packing an Operation Christmas Child box.
- Refuse to give into their whining. Christmas is not about them.
- Allow your kids to pick out gifts for each other, or for any other friends and family members!
- Pick a service project to do as a family
- Make DIY gifts for teachers, family and friends and share with them the value of making something “from the heart”!
Make them Aware of the World Around Them
At any time in history, there are millions of men, women and children who go without food, shelter and other everyday privileges we take for granted. So many things we worry about are what are known as “first world problems”. There are many people, both in the USA and abroad, who can use our prayers and tangible support. Let’s pray about planting a “missional” mindset in our children. (Related: 5 ideas for ministering to others when you have young children).
We like to read through the Samaritan’s Purse quarterly Prayer Point which shares ways to help people from all over the world meet physical and spiritual needs. Compassion International and World Medical Mission are wonderful ministries to be a part of as well. Find out if your church or school supports any charities such as Angel Tree. Share carefully with your kids depending on their age.
Emphasize the True Gift of Christmas!
Having a special Advent devotional activity for each day of December, finding other activities to celebrate Christ’s birth and drawing our focus back to Jesus with beautiful Christmas carols and hymns are special traditions for our family. Maybe they are for yours too! It’s probably obvious to us as Christians the “reason for the season” but sometimes we forget to be intentional about it and let the busyness of this time of year place the birth of Jesus on the back burner.
Bringing our children’s attention to the reason we celebrate this holiday in the first place goes a long way in encouraging contentment.
It might be a process to un-spoil our kids, and they won’t be perfectly unselfish with a snap of our fingers. But my husband and I are finding that as we work purposefully on showing our children the value of loving and looking out for other people’s interests, their attitudes are slowly shifting from always feeling entitled to generously giving thanks and seeing Christmas as a joyous season where they can bless others first!
Want more resources to help cultivate an attitude of contentment in your children?
The best way to do this as a Christian parent is to help your child (and yourself) see what the Word of God says about this very matter. “A Content Heart, Finding Godly Contentment in a Me-First World” Bible study was just released! We are excited to dig into this resource with our older children who are 4, 7 and 9!
NEW! Christ-Centered Christmas Family Traditions Printable System: How to have a Christmas that is simple, builds meaningful family connection and is focused on Christ. Get it for $10 off on 11/22 and 11/23 using code PREBLACKFRI10OFF at checkout.
some images courtesy of pixabay