Entitlement is a dirty word around here. If I could count the number of times Peter has complained about people who think they should be given everything for nothing, I would be a wealthy woman. But as we enter this Christmas season, I am rethinking the definition of entitlement and applying it to myself. And let me tell you, it’s pretty uncomfortable.
I was recently selected to be part of a launch team for a new book written by Kristen Welch. You may know Kristen from her blog We Are That Family. You may also know her from her nonprofit, Mercy House, which funds maternity homes in Kenya. Kristen has recently written a book, Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World, which will be released in January. As a member of her launch team, I have received an advanced copy, and I’m finding it to be exactly what I need amidst the consumerism of Christmas.
In the first chapter, Kristen spends some time talking about how the definition of the American Dream has changed over the past few decades. When I was growing up, achieving the American Dream meant making a better life for yourself. Becoming a better you. But in our current culture, it means being entitled to the largest houses and the most expensive clothes. Being given things for free without having to work for them. When did this definition change? And why do we think we are entitled to receive everything we want? Just because we desire something, doesn’t mean we are entitled to it.
I must admit that I live a pretty charmed life. I get to stay home and raise our children while Peter works hard to provide the things we want and need. But we make a lot of sacrifices in order for me to stay home. We don’t go on elaborate vacations or drive fancy cars. (Unless you consider a 2010 Honda Odyssey to be a fancy car. Sigh.) I don’t shop at pricey boutiques and much of the clothing my little kids wear is from consignment sales. So because of some of these sacrifices, I don’t necessarily think of our family as entitled.
But you know what? We act like we are. When I think that I deserve to have some time to myself, that’s entitlement. When I feel like I deserve a new pair of shoes even though I have fourteen perfectly good pair in my closet, that’s entitlement. When Peter thinks he deserves _______ (fill in the blank) because he worked hard and he earned it, that’s entitlement. When my kids scream for the latest toy advertised on tv because they “need it right now,” that’s entitlement.
We live in an entitlement culture and it’s a difficult mindset to get away from. But listen to what Romans 12:2 says in the Message.
“Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God.”
Is it just me, or does anyone else wish that wasn’t a thing?
At this very moment, my kids are listing all the things they want for Christmas. But how do we, as parents, point them away from material items and toward Christ? How do we avoid becoming “so well-adjusted to (our) culture that (we) fit into it without even thinking?” Unfortunately, it begins with me. I must throw out my entitlement attitude and instead exhibit selflessness. And I must talk about Christ and the true meaning of Christmas. Constantly. Deuteronomy 6:7 tells us to talk about the Lord with our children “when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”
For the past three years, our family has used Truth in the Tinsel as part of our Christmas activities and it has become a tradition that our children look forward to. Every day (Ok, let’s be real for a second – it doesn’t happen every day because, well, life happens.) we sit at the table, read the daily scripture and make an ornament to go along with what we read. The kids love doing these little crafts and I love seeing our advent tree filling up with God’s Word in the form of handmade ornaments.
We also usually make a birthday cake for Jesus during the month of December. Seeing the cake (and eating it!) helps remind the kids that Christmas is actually about Jesus. Last Saturday, we made our “Jesus cake,” but this year, we added something new to the tradition. After decorating the cake and eating some of it, we hopped online and checked out Samaritan’s Purse so that we could buy a present in celebration of Jesus’ birthday. As we were browsing the website, Jonah asked me, “What does Jesus like for His birthday?” (Isn’t that precious?) I told the kids that Jesus wants us to love others and serve others. And He wants us to love Him with all of our hearts. I told them about the many refugees who even now have no place to live, no food, and very little clothing. Jonah then exclaimed: “They don’t have a house? Well, the three little pigs can help with that!” (Call me crazy, but I think we still have some work to do.)
I let each child pick out something to buy for Jesus’ birthday. Jonah picked out warm clothing and shoes for children and the girls each chose to purchase food for a baby for a week. They were excited to be able to help other children in need. Here is a photo of us with the cake and pictures of the things we purchased.
At bedtime Saturday evening, as we talked about the items we had bought, Vivi asked how we were going to get Jesus’ presents to Him. I love watching how my kids’ minds work. And even though they can’t quite comprehend the meaning behind the gifts, I am grateful that seeds are being planted in their little hearts.
I would love to hear your ideas for squashing the sense of entitlement in your family. And how are you helping your children focus on Christ this Christmas?
For those of you who are interested in reading Kristen’s book, you can preorder your copy now. She is giving away a Global Family Kit with every preorder while supplies last. This kit will enable you to teach your kids about families in impoverished nations around the world. So don’t wait until January to order it. Buy it now!
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