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How to Raise Happy Children

Help your children learn to be grateful for what they have as they grow.

“Mom, I need this toy at all costs. Buy it from me! » “Dad, I’m the only one in my class who doesn’t have a smartphone. Why can’t I have one? » “Come on, Mom, I really need a better bike; don’t make me ride this old thing! »

Do these requests remind you of anything or anyone?

The “give me syndrome”

If you’re a parent, you’ve probably heard these kinds of requests. That’s my case. My sons are now in their twenties, and they are happy, satisfied. Nevertheless, I remember having to – when they were growing up – remedy the “give me syndrome”. Looks like there was always a commercial on TV; a display in a shop; or a classmate who told them that they needed one or more toys, or devices or sports equipment of better or newer quality, etc.
Spread the word ; Raising happy children, in addition to being happy yourself, can be a daunting task. We humans naturally desire to have what we do not have or are not entitled to have. On top of that, we are continually bombarded with advertisements on TV, on our computers and on our cell phones, urging us to buy clothes, cell phones and all kinds of the latest gadgets. Digital marketing experts estimate that the number of ads the average American is exposed to is between 4,000 and 10,000 messages daily – fueling materialism and discontent among children and adults alike.
Social media is also part of it. When friends post updates about their amazing personal accomplishments, lavish vacations, seemingly ideal families, or social lives, it can make us think about all the things we don’t have or are missing out on. .
Of course, wanting more of something is not necessarily bad. However, it can be harmful if we cannot be satisfied when we have to do without it.
The Bible provides many examples of individuals who were consumed by discontent, jealousy, or restlessness.
There are also many passages in the Bible urging us to adopt the opposite mindset. It is written, for example, “Keep yourselves carefully from all avarice; for a man’s life does not depend on his possessions, even if he were to have plenty” (Luke 12:15); “Do not indulge in the love of money; be content with what you have” (Hebrews 13:5) and “For great gain is godliness with contentment” (1 Timothy 6:6).
When we are happy, we are satisfied and at peace with our situation or status. We don’t need anything else to feel good about ourselves. Contentment is a state of mind in which we rejoice in what God gives us.

How to Teach Contentment

How do we go about instilling contentment in our children? It partly depends on their age. If they aren’t in school yet, you can focus on eliminating “I want’s and teaching them to be grateful for what they have. As your children grow, you can help them understand that contentment is trusting in God, who provides for us, and who knows what is best for us.
There are a variety of ways to do this, but here’s what worked well with my kids:
1. Practice gratitude.
The best antidote to discontent is gratitude. When I noticed that my children insisted too much on what they did not have or could not have, I asked them to name all the good things they had that they could be happy to have, and that usually made them change their minds. Gratitude has a knack for making us cultivate contentment because it compels us to take notice of all the blessings God has given us.
Some parents are very proactive in this area. You can ask your children for a “gratitude notebook” in which they can make a list of all the things they are grateful for, and ask them to expand this list by two or three entries a day. And when they have a “not great” day, you can ask them to look in their journals so they can remember their blessings.
Try to incorporate gratitude into your daily conversations. “I’m happy to have a garden! » . “We are so lucky to have a house and drinking water! ” etc.
Teach your children to appreciate the beauty that surrounds them; the birds chirping in the trees; fresh snow; field flowers; a gentle breeze… This will help them focus on the positive.
You can also set aside times each day to express your gratitude. Before praying in the morning, or before going to bed at night, ask your children to name three blessings God gives them that they can thank Him for. Before dinner, ask each family member to name at least one thing they are grateful for. Do this not only on the “good days,” but also when your kids are struggling with disappointments. By making a habit of acknowledging their blessings, even in difficult times, children can learn to be content in any situation.
2. Serve and give, as a family.
Encourage your children to devote some of their time, talents, and resources to helping those in need (Romans 12:3-13). When we render service, we acquire an attitude of contentment because it helps us to focus not on our own needs and desires but on the real needs of others.
I know several families who volunteer with local charities. One of them collects canned food donations for a food bank for the poor. Another distributes free meals with a van once a week. Another organizes an evening of games once a month in a hospice for the elderly.
A friend contacted a hospital in her town to find out if her 10- and 12-year-old daughters could deliver get-well cards to children in the pediatric ward. When she received permission, she and her daughters spent a day writing cards, and an afternoon distributing them to young, often seriously ill, boarders.
“Before, my friend told me, my daughters complained about many things that upset them in their lives, but then they became grateful to be healthy! »
However, not all services need to be provided through a specific institution. When my sons were growing up, we taught them to look for people who needed help, and together we would offer to help them. It could be a meal delivered to a sick friend; visiting an elderly person unable to move; or clearing the snow-covered driveway of the widow next door. Whenever my sons helped someone, they were invariably grateful for everything they had.
3. Discourage comparisons.
Of course, we will always meet people who live in better houses than ours, who wear better quality clothes than us, or who are more popular, more talented or more intelligent than us. If your kids are comparing themselves to their buddies and feeling uncomfortable because they’re not the best, you need to step up. Explain to them the dangers of comparing our lives to those of others.
Teach your children to rejoice when their peers fully benefit from the blessings they have received, whether material or gifted, and explain to them why they do not need to feel wronged or inferior. they are not in a similar situation. Explain to them that God works in everyone differently and that we all have our own talents and qualities. Explain to them that everything we have comes from God and that He gives us what we need, when we need it.
4. Avoid materialism.
When my two sons were young, I quickly realized that taking them shopping with me in their double stroller was not a good idea. They saw stores full of toys that they soon coveted—toys they hadn’t even known existed until they were in the mall. Limiting the number of things they saw in the windows helped them to be happy.
When, as teenagers, they wanted to spend the afternoon strolling through a mall with their friends, unless they were going there to buy something specific that they really needed, I would try to suggest another activity, less materialistic – like going for a walk in nature or playing board games.
Don’t forget the influence of advertisements. Some parents only allow their children to watch TV channels without commercials or to watch a movie on DVD, in order to reduce the number of commercial solicitations reaching them. It can work, up to a point. Nevertheless, advertising being almost omnipresent, you will not be able to completely protect your children from its influence.
Instead, teach your young people what the goals of advertisers are – to sell their products and make us think we need them when, in most cases, we don’t. Tell them about the ad you see: “Do you really think you can play basketball better in these shoes? » ; “Do you think this toy is as good as the ad tries to make you believe? »
Several surveys have shown that when parents rate the ads their children are exposed to, they are less likely to want them.
5. Model contentment.
When all is said and done, the best way to teach your children about contentment is to be content yourself. Your children are watching you, following your example. If you’re happy with what you have, they’ll probably be happy too. On the other hand, if you are never satisfied in life, chances are that your children will not be either.
We should take seriously the words of the apostle Paul: “I have learned to be content in the state in which I am. I know how to live in humiliation, and I know how to live in abundance. In everything and everywhere I have learned to be full and to hunger, to have plenty and to have want” (Philippians 4:11-12). We must trust God, who guides us along the way. We need to pray not only for the situations we find ourselves in and for the decisions we have to make, but also to be satisfied with the answers He gives us – even if that’s not what we wanted to hear. This, in short, is being content as the Bible tells us to be, and this is the example we should set for our young people.
We won’t do it perfectly, but we must strive to do our best. It doesn’t matter how much money we earn, how big the house we live in, and what job we do; we must seek optimism, be grateful, and decide to be content. If so, our children will learn to do the same.

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