Choosing to be Content

(Essential Principle # 3)

Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world.  I Timothy 6: 6-7

We are a profoundly dissatisfied people.  We focus on what we want to get rather than enjoying what we already have.  We grasp for, grab at, and seek for more- better – easier.  The discontented culture we have created for ourselves is a breeding ground for depression and despair.  The more we look for new means by which to satisfy ourselves, the more discontent we become. This ever expanding pursuit is a nightmarish existence of greed, envy, and pride.   It lures, ensnares, and imprisons us into a lifestyle that distracts us away from what is truly important in life.

The unbelievable amount of choices available to American consumers in and of itself creates dissatisfaction.  What if we make the wrong choice or pick “less than the best option” available?  With the purchase of a cell phone alone, the shopper has over 4,600 cell phone models to select from and as soon as a new phone is purchased, an upgraded model becomes available. And think about the complexity of merely selecting athletics shoes considering that over 10,000 models are available in the market.  “Choices stress” bubbles into EVERYTHING including the purchase of everyday items like eggs and milk.

The perception of what kids actually need to be happy has mushroomed in recent decades.  Today’s kids get more and at earlier ages than any other generation.    Yet they appear to be decidedly more dissatisfied if whining and complaining are any gauge.

kate whining

Let’s face it; kids today do a lot of whining, complaining, and demanding! While angering and exhausting the adults, the art of whining and complaining works.  Parents want to please their kids and find it often easier to give in. And the annoying behavior stops temporarily! All too often the self worth of the parent is rooted in how happy their kids seem. If the child is happy, mamma is happy so she gives in to make herself and the child happy for the moment.

Discontentment at its core is an ungrateful attitude towards the Lord and it is entirely opposite the command that we are to give thanks in everything. While we may not be able to be genuinely thankful for all things themselves, we can always give thanks for God’s love and care in all things.  Nothing good comes from a complaining nature:

  • The parent/child relationship is greatly impacted.   Entitled kids see themselves on equal ground with their parents, entitled to make their own decisions and get what they want.  Entitled kids show respect only if they think others deserve it and talk back to adults in any manner they choose.  They argue incessantly until their demands are met.  They are seldom happy and neither are the adults around them. They grow to disrespect and disregard the parent who neither “says what she means or means what she says.”
  • Such a kid is less likely to handle trials and difficult tasks because their efforts go instead towards seeking a way out of the difficult circumstances that are considered the cause of their dissatisfaction.
  • Such a teen is more prone toward sexual misconduct and the use of drugs because they are in the habit of getting what they want to get, continually striving to gratify their longings.
  • Such an adult makes a poor marriage partner who is always looking out for number one.
  • Such an adult makes an ineffective parent who disciplines and trains their children only when it is convenient and they feel up to the challenge.

A great deal of purpose is lost in the dissatisfied lifestyle because it is about a “for the future” existence  – a continual waiting game for that one thing or person or change that will satisfy.   Waiting to be content is a snare of satan robbing the joy from today and replacing it with longings over a tomorrow that never arrives.   Will the latest cell phone or electronic gadget or new car or bigger home really satisfy a discontent mindset?  Will a new school or church, a different teacher or boss, a better job or nicer co-worker, a new friend or spouse, really bring about lasting happiness?

Contentment, like any other virtue, is a CHOICE we make.  We are not born content or discontent; rather we develop a lifestyle of being one way or the other.  Being content with where I am with what I have is a profoundly important principle to live by.    When Apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 4 that he “can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”, he was not implying that if we slap the name of Jesus onto our longings we can do or get anything we want.   Paul wrote this while in prison as a statement of his ability to be content regardless of what he faced because he knew that his satisfaction was in Christ alone. The choice to be content in all circumstances is a deeply satisfying way to live.  Truly content people can live with joy because they comprehend that God is sovereign and will give the strength and courage to face what life brings. Complaining and giving thanks, two contrasting attitudes of the soul, are more influential that we realize in determining the direction of our lives.  And the two cannot exist together because one ushers out the other.

The recent severe recession may be a blessing in disguise for today’s families.  Some kids may likely learn the value of being content with what they have because their parents simply cannot give them what they want.  Regardless of whether you are struggling economically or not, consider withholding “wants” from your kids  at least until they are content with how things currently are. They will never learn to choose contentment NOW if they are continuing looking for contentment WHEN.

The soul that gives thanks can find comfort in everything; the soul that complains can find comfort in nothing. (Hannah Whitall Smith)

Dealing with Your Complaining, Whining Child

  1. Apologize to your kids for having indulged their whining and complaining in the past.  Let them know that it was a mistake to respond to their demands.
  2. Then stop paying attention to whining and complaining.  Don’t respond or react to their whining and complaining for any reason. Resolve to focus on anything but whining and complaining. Let your actions – and not words – teach.
  3. Remind your kids that it is their responsibility to entertain themselves and not yours.
  4. Give them your time when they are not asking for it. If kids get your attention only when they demand it, they start to believe they have to demand your attention in order to get it.
  5. Do not give in to any request that come from whining and complaining.  Kids whine and complain when they want something different than they are getting. They want to do something they can’t do, want something they can’t have and they want you to change your mind.  Make absolutely certain that whatever they are fussing about they don’t get so that they learn this pattern of behavior DOES NOT WORK.
  6. Things will likely get worse before they get better.  Anytime you change your response patterns to your children, they will strive to get you back on the pattern they are used to.
  7. Teach your kids to give something up, like their allowance to help a child have food, or  time on a video game for reading the Bible, or efforts to be popular to spend time with someone who needs a friend.  Look at what Jesus gave up when he left heaven to sacrifice Himself for us.

Question from last week’s blog: “I have to constantly remind myself to not say “do your best”.  When did that become the standard for encouraging our children?  I know as a perfectionist natured child, this did nothing to encourage me and yet it is ingrained in my mind and I often find it hard to think of something else to say.  Can you feed us some other, more appropriate phases to use in place of this unachievable one?”

Think of words that specifically describe what outcomes you are after:  creativity, focus, being wise, effort, improvement, good use of time, neatness, etc.  Each child is different however. For children who have a perfectionist bent (either the over achiever or the one who underachieves because they are risk averse), you need to focus on character far more than outcome.  For the passive child who is not motivated however, outcomes need to be stated as well:

  • “I am looking for your work to be neat and easy to read today.”
  • “I can tell you really put some thought into what you wrote.”
  • “Last time you got 40 out of 50 correct on your time test.  How many do you think you can get right today?” (improvement)
  • “Let’s be a good role model for your sister by working without complaining.”
  • “Let’s see what you can do in 30 minutes.” (good use of time)
  • “When you are done, I would like to hear what part of this assignment you enjoyed the most.”
  • Let’s think of ways to make this assignment unique and different.  (creativity)

4 Comments

  1. I like the idea of giving your kids things they want when they don’t complain or whine!! Cause I definitely understand demanding kids right now.

    Reply
  2. Ellen,

    You are really speaking to me! Today I caught myself concentrating on the fact that our day was anything but smooth and that parenting/co-teaching at this stage was not EASY. Your blog caused a light bulb to go off! What makes me think it SHOULD be easy? Our culture encourages us to make the paths for our children (and for ourselves) “smooth and easy.” However, as your blog states, that ease could be the very thing that would turn our children away from Christ and and toward a life of discontentment and pleasure-seeking behavior. Thanks for encouraging me to be pray for strength and wisdom in parenting as well as for gratefulness in all circumstances (even the difficult moments).

    Reply
  3. Thank you for all the tips and ideas on how to handle our complaining children. At times it just seems easier to give in and stop the whining, but I am reminded that the cost long term is much higher!

    Reply
  4. The part about having too many choices really hit home w/ me. I’m going to work on being content w/ what I have and what I choose to get instead of allowing myself to worry about what else I could have gotten

    Reply

Leave a Reply