Every family knows how challenging it can be to walk into a store with young children. As soon as you start making your way down the aisles, your kids get bit by the bug of discontentment. “Mommy, can we get that?” “Daddy, I want one of those!” And before you know it, we’re either frustrated with a cart full of stuff we didn’t plan to buy or frustrated at saying no for the millionth time.
The ugly truth is that we’ve all had a discontent family at one point or another, and not just when we go to the store. Our entire culture is based upon the premise of discontentment. Manufacturers and commercials reinforce it and we see it in one way or another every day. And it sadly brings out the worst in us and our kids. Here are 3 traps that’ll lead to a discontent family.
The Comparison Trap
Years ago, when our kids were young and money was tight, I remember looking out our front window and seeing that our neighbor had gotten the exact car I had always dreamed of owning. My thoughts were immediately gripped with jealousy. But one of the greatest killers of contentment is trying to keep up with the Joneses! You may have heard Dave Ramsey’s familiar words: “Don’t buy things you can’t afford, with money you don’t have, to impress people you don’t like.”
A surefire way to discontentment and a miserable life is to start comparing yourself with others. Someone else’s grass is always greener because someone else always has more, better, or bigger than you do. Your family will never fully enjoy what you already have if you’re always looking at and lusting after what others have. Our children naturally need guidance with this, and one of the best ways for them to receive it is through our example.
The Complaining Trap
Let’s be super honest here—we can all get really good at this one really fast! I have to admit, there’ve been times when I’ve walked through the front door at end of a long day, seen the mess of our house with four small kids, and wanted to do nothing but start complaining and barking orders. Rather than noticing my wife’s hard work or the blessing of my children, I become blinded by my own selfishness.
But consider this: Gratefulness and complaining are direct opposites. They are diametrically opposed. The more you have of one, the less you naturally have of the other. Content people are also grateful people. In our family, we’ve tried to teach our children to avoid the complaining trap with these two principles:
Learn to live with less, not more! Contentment is often found in simplicity! In other words, the less I have, the more content I am.
Learn to live in the present, not the future! Learn to be content with what you have right now.
The Cutting-Edge Trap
I heard a story about a devout Quaker who, while leaning on his fence, watched a new neighbor move in next door. After all kinds of expensive appliances, electronic gadgets, and luxurious furniture had been carried into his new neighbor’s house, he spoke up: “If you find you’re lacking anything, neighbor, let me know—and I’ll show you how to live without it.”We’re good at convincing ourselves that we need things that we really don’t need.
We all like shiny new things, and so do our kids. The cutting-edge trap is the lie that plays into the “next big thing” mentality that there’s always something bigger and better, and whatever it is, we just have to have it. We’re good at convincing ourselves that we need things that we really don’t need, whether it’s the newest tablet or game system for our kids or the most up-to-date phone or vehicle for ourselves.
I’m not suggesting that we all become Quakers, but I do think we would do well to reevaluate if any of these traps are hurting our families. Did you know that a typical store in the United States in 1976 that stocked 9,000 items now carries 50,000 to 100,000 items? How many of those do you think are absolutely essential? How many just extra? We live in a society that is convinced that we need so much more than what we really do.
Sound off: Which of these has the biggest chance of leading to a discontent family?
Huddle Up Question
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What is something you think our family could live without?”