Spoil. Punish. Repent.
Who made the kids in your house so rotten? I mean, seriously, who bought them all of the toys, took them out to eat so many times, let them stay up late and let them get away with sassing you like that? This is currently one of our favorite conversations. Why do we spoil our kids and then punish them for it? Eating out may have been a luxury when we were growing up, but if we take our kids out to eat weekly, should we be shocked at their lack of gratitude? When we let them stay up late, is it fair to punish them for their grumpiness the next day? This one is going to sting: Can we really have a sharp tongue all of the time and expect that our kids will not turn and respond as a smart alec at some point? These examples only scratch the surface, and they don’t begin to touch the baggage carried into teenage and college years.
I think most of us desire to cultivate a spirit of gratitude in children. The last thing we want is to send more entitled people into the world. So what do we do with them? More importantly, what do we do with us?
Parents: We always start with repentance. Then, we let the gospel reshape our thinking and doing.
Children: Henry Van Dyke says, “Gratitude is the inward feeling of kindness received. Thankfulness is the natural impulse to express that feeling. Thanksgiving is the following of that impulse.” With that said, gratitude is internal, meaning it comes from the inside out. We can make them say “thank you” all day long, but we can’t make them feel it. We can’t guilt them into it. Can we trust the gospel will shape their thinking and doing?
John Piper agrees that gratitude is a feeling. For more on gratitude, follow this link from Desiring God: