Every mother and father knows the moment of anticipation and terror when our children open a birthday gift from a friend or family member and forget to say thank you. What is worse is when our children blurt out, “I already have one of these,” or “This isn’t the one I wanted,” –or even worse– silence, no thanks, no  “I appreciate it.”  We watch with inner turmoil screaming inside our heads, “Say thanks. Say thanks. Don’t forget to say thank you.” And finally… sometimes, they remember. At that moment, the world is back inline and so is our inner stress.

Something in us knows that thankfulness is at the core of how the universe should work. None of us want our kids to become compulsive complainers or Eeyores of entitlement.

We all know the challenges of having that talk with both our kids and that relative who always buys more than we know they can afford. We tell our kids, “Now Aunt Betty can’t afford much, so don’t go asking her for anything big and expensive.” Our son retorts, “But she always buys me whatever I ask for. Last year I got the megablock supersonic ultrasystem.”

You know he’s right, but he doesn’t realize that Aunt Betty just put it on a credit card and probably hasn’t finished paying it off one year later. So you just reply, “I know she did, but I don’t want to hear you asking for anything big this year.”

You know instructively that a child’s sense of entitlement and greed, linked up with a people pleasing relative who is low on funds, is a recipe for disaster. Aunt Betty keeps running herself into the ground financially, while rewarding your son or daughter’s insatiable desire to get bigger and bigger things each Christmas.

You remember Jesus’ words to a Roman soldier, “Be content with your wages.” You hear the voice of the apostle Paul whisper, “I have learned to be content in any and all circumstances.”  You know that unless you intervene, your child will not learn gratitude and contentment, but will live on the hamster wheel of greed and discontent well into adulthood.

Today, our American society has become that demanding child, begging Uncle Sam to pour out more and more benefits — despite the reality that he is putting it on a national credit card. They don’t and can’t see the long term hurt caused by short term demands.

We need mothers, leaders, and families that teach our children to Act their own Wage, and suppress the never-ending appetite for more.

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