Throughout my years in women’s ministry, I’ve heard young mothers ask the same questions over and over. One of those questions is this: “How do I teach my children to be content?”
The only way I know how to answer this question is to ask the parent, “Are you content?”
My discontentment hit about ten years ago when both my children were in pre-school. I remember strapping my boys into their booster seats, popping in a Sheryl Crow CD I had been given as gift and setting “Soak up the Sun” on repeat. My boys loved this song and I knew if they were distracted by the music, I could have some uninterrupted time to think. What was I thinking about? How discontent I was.
A friend of mine had just built a new house. She had not only filled the rooms with new furniture, but with new artwork and all the latest gadgets. That day, driving down the road, I found myself discontented with my life. I kept picturing my friend’s new house in my mind, and every time I thought about how very big her house was, my next thought was how very small my house was. The more I thought about how new and pretty her furniture was, the older and uglier mine became. I started thinking about the crowds of people she could entertain in that giant house of hers, and I convinced myself that I would, from that day on, be too embarrassed to entertain friends in my very tiny house that was full of old, ugly, beat up furniture.
I was consumed with envy; I was discontented.
I had put so much thought into this that I was almost to the point of tears, and then it happened. My boys started singing with Sheryl Crow. From the two booster seats behind me, I heard two little voices sing out, “It’s not getting what you want, it’s wanting what you’ve got.”
Who knew that God could use two preschoolers and a Sheryl Crow CD to get my attention?
If I had continued down that road of discontentment, eventually I would have started verbalizing my dissatisfaction with our home. And I’m willing to bet that at some point my children would have followed my lead and they too would start disliking our home. They would have decided if mommy’s room was too small, theirs must be too. If mommy thinks the couch is old and ugly, they will think so too. If mommy thinks the kitchen is outdated, it must be.
A new house and new furniture takes money. Because I’m a stay-at-home mom, my husband is responsible for every penny we have. I have no doubt had I kept going down the road of discontentment, my children would have eventually heard me say to their dad, “If you only made more money, we could buy a bigger house, we could get new furniture, we could...” The list could go on forever and so could the damage this would have done to my husband and to the respect my children should have for their father.
So, how do I teach my children to be content? I show them how.
There’s an old hymn that reads, “This world is not my home, I'm just a-passing through. My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue.” This is what I cling to when I feel discontented. This is what I remind my children when they don’t get everything they want.
This world is not our home, and we shouldn’t expect to be satisfied with what we have here.
tells us, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven
, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
I don’t want my heart, or the hearts of my children, to be full of earthly treasures. I also don’t want myself or my children to be so content with this life that we hate to leave it behind for what awaits us in Heaven.
When our children are older, we can point them to God’s word and help them live out what the Bible
teaches about contentment. But when our children are preschoolers, we need practical ways to live out contentment and be an example to them. Here are some ideas.
Pray aloud with your children and let them hear you thank God for providing you with a home; a vehicle; a refrigerator full of food.
In the winter months and rainy seasons, tell your children how thankful you are that God has provided you with warmth and a way to stay dry.
When your children are playing with their toys, tell them how much you enjoy giving them gifts, just as our Heavenly Father gives his children gifts.
If you’re a stay-at-home mom, let your children hear you thank your husband for working so hard to provide for his family.
If you’re a working mom, let your children hear you thank God for providing you with work.
The bottom line is; we must practice contentment if we want to teach it to our children.
What do you find yourself complaining about? Is your house too small? Is your car unreliable? Do you dislike your job or co-workers? Do you complain about your appearance, your wardrobe or your income?
Remember, my children learned the words to “Soak up the Sun” because I played the song on repeat. Our children memorize our words as well. What words do you have on repeat for your children to memorize? Are they words of contentment or discontentment?
Paul tells us in Philippians 4:12
, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”
The truth is, most of us have never really been in need or have ever really been hungry. We tend to replace the word “want” with “need.” We live in a culture that screams to us that we deserve anything and everything we want; we deserve the best.
As the lies of this world begin to fill our minds (and the minds of our children), we must remind ourselves that the absolute best possession we can have is a relationship with Jesus Christ. And, guess what? We don’t deserve it.
We must remind ourselves that the most precious treasures are not of this world.
Looking back, that tiny little house we lived in ten years ago; the one with the old, ugly, beat up furniture… it wasn’t that tiny and it wasn’t really full of old, ugly, beat up furniture. In fact, when I think about that house now, all I see in my mind are all the great memories we made there and how that house was a perfectly cozy, comfortable, lovely home.
We can’t live in this world and not be influenced by it, nor can our children. Our best defense against the selfishness our children learn from the world is to live in a way that is so different, they can’t help but notice. We must live a life that points to Jesus and to the truth that it is in Him - and in Him alone - that we find true satisfaction, not in the things of this world.
So, how do you teach your children to be content? Be content.
Publication date: September 10, 2015