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First of all, you must lead by example and set a tone of gratefulness in your home. Pray with a grateful heart with your children, praise God often in all circumstances, avoid complaining and grumbling about your life and/or lamenting what you wish you could have that you don't have already. 1 Corinthians 1:11 says, And you should imitate me, just as I imitate Christ. As we imitate the example that Christ demonstrated to us of being grateful to His Father, our children will in turn imitate us. In addition, it's important to create an atmosphere in your home in which your children respect you and honor you when they must be denied getting their way and when they can't have what they want for a good reason. As fallen humans, we are selfish to the core, and our default setting is to look out for number one at all times. The will of the child must be broken, but in a loving manner and without anger, harshness, or undue discipline. Last, parents must be committed to the life-long process of training children. Rome wasn't built in a day, and helping children to mature and grow into God-centered people takes a lot of time, effort, wisdom, and consistency. Proverbs 22:6 says, Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it. Give yourself to the process of training your children in gratefulness, be patient and loving with them along the way, and demonstrate being thankful daily, all through the day.
I loved Kelli Hamann's response to this. She had some really practical spiritual advice. Perhaps because or our sinful nature as well as constant bombardment with advertising, what we considered a luxury yesterday may be seen as a necessity tomorrow. What our friends have, or what we see as "normal" on television, we assume we have to have. We tend to have tunnel-vision. We lose perspective easily, and we tend to assume that "everyone" else has the item that we want. This is true just as much of us adults as of children. What I'm going to say is going to sound pessimistic perhaps, but honestly it helps. For me, one of the BEST ways to keep perspective is to stay in touch with the reality of life outside of 21st century suburban middle-class America. Going on a mission trip or sponsoring a child through Compassion (or a similar program) really brings you face-to-face with the TRUE dirt-poor poverty in which a greater part of mankind exists. Even a trip into Mexico can be quite enlightening. We can see poverty here in the US, too, if we get off the beaten track a little. I grew up in one of the poorest parishes (counties) in Louisiana. In fact, a book written in the 1990s tells of houses with dirt floors and no running water or indoor plumbing. (I knew of people who had no running water even in the 1980s) Yet in many parts of the world even these sub-standard homes would be considered quite normal. As bad as these conditions were, I've read of conditions in some of the urban tenements that sound even worse. Similarly, the study of history helps students grasp how blessed we really are by giving them perspective. Until World War II, many families, especially farm-families, in the US were cash-poor. This lead to a lack of commercially-made goods that you find in homes today. In many cases, you either made it at home, or you did without. (I'm not saying here that our modern fiat-currency/fractional reserve banking system is good, but that we certainly have a HUGE amount of mass-produced items compared with our ancestors.) The dearth of mass-produced goods (or any goods) was even more apparent before the mid-19th century; before the Industrial Revolution had really taken hold in the U.S. A good book about this is called The Reshaping of Everyday Life: 1790-1840, although you can get a glimpse of this reality even in the popular, and slightly later, Little House books. I think it's hard for us to fathom a world where a poor family might have only one or two cooking pots/vessels, no silverware other than perhaps a knife, maybe two suits of clothes each, no shoes for most of the year, sometimes no socks at all, no mirrors, clocks, or pictures on the walls, etc. Even Kate Stone, a refugee to Texas during the Civil War described a home in which one skillet serves both for cooking and as a "wash basin." Food, of course, consisted of corn products, pork products, wild game, and whatever was in season. On such a limited diet, some suffered nutritional deficiencies such as pellagra (more common in the 20th century) and rickets. Some other books suitable perhaps for older youth are Riis' unflinching photos of early 20th century urban life in How the Other Half Lives, and perhaps some of the documents about the English working class in the early 19th century and child labor in early US factories. Upper-high school young people can be taught about the degrading conditions of the child workers in the English coal mines. Along with this, a short introduction to medicine before antibiotics and/or anesthesia...or even before the polio vaccine.... should be enough to make most young people grateful for God's blessings in the world of medicine. If nothing else, let them visit a cemetery and see how many graves of children under five years of age they can find. A little exposure to the truth can sometimes have young people very grateful to be living in 21st century America.
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