Do your kids ever manifest symptoms of First World Syndrome? Recent generations of young people have been groomed to have a certain sense of entitlement about them. That something is owed them. That they deserve more. An expectation of accolades, convenience, and ease. It is grievous and unkind to cultivate this. Suspect there are some kids in your circle of influence who have this condition? Here are some practical questions to help you decide:
- Do they have SO much, and still want more?
- They have more, but they wanted a different more?
- Do their expectations indicate little realistic comprehension of the cost of living?
- Are they unable to find satisfaction in small gestures?
- Challenging for them to survive without electronics without withdrawal?
- Clueless as to how to constructively occupy themselves when there is “nothing to do”?
- Are they unhappy with generic brands?
- Do they sit in the car when you go to yard sales or consignment shops?
- Not adept at mastering the art of waiting (in line anywhere, for a package in the mail, for a Hot Pocket to finish cooking, by saving money over a long period for something special, for their meal to arrive at a restaurant)?
- Speaking of restaurants…have they lost the sense of novelty in going out to eat?
- Manifesting a grousing attitude when they don’t have what so and so has, or the newest/best/fastest thing available?
- Those old enough to hold a job…complaining about duties they don’t particularly enjoy?
- Exceedingly talented at letting the water run, taking hour-long showers, and wasting resources?
- Hiking up the electric bill with the loaded fridge door open, proclaiming there is “nothing to eat”?
- Grumbling attitude about chipping in and sharing the load with household chores?
I could go on, but you get the idea. We live in a country that is comparatively very wealthy and full of privilege for its citizens. A country where, at any given grocery store there is an entire aisle of breakfast cereals, and another full of pet food. Think of that.
It’s time parents stepped up and behaved as parental beings. “No” is not a dirty word. Having our kids earn things is important, not only for establishing a good work ethic, but to learn the value of things and amp up the sense of gratitude and stewardship for what they have.
We are all prone to complain from time to time, but we don’t need to feed that attitude of discontentment. We need to combat it. It was hard wired into the human heart with the Fall. The apple’s always redder on the other side of the Garden, you know.
How do we suit up as parents against this First World Syndrome? Some ideas (and I’d love to hear yours below):
- Fasting from electronics. It’s amazing the creativity that can surface (it might make clean ups more frequent…just a heads up). Here’s a free “I’m Bored Jar” post to help!
- Taking a trip to a 3rd World country. #immenserealitycheck
- If the above is not possible, take them to an impoverished location for a long, hard look. When I took a trip to Atlanta with our youngest, she saw folks living on the street, living in boxes. This was no longer fictional part of some TV show…they are real people. Now there is a point of reference for being grateful simply for a warm, safe place to live.
- Teach them to repair things, not just toss and buy new. This will carry over into their relationships as well.
- Serving the unfortunate (soup kitchens, food banks, etc.)…and not just as a token guest appearance.
- Have them write a list of things…specific things….that they are grateful for on a regular basis. Here is a free gratitude journal for kids!
- Teach them to budget early (I do this in our schooling when they start middle school), so they have an awareness of the cost of living. This sheds new light on the blessing of yard sales and second hand stores…suddenly “more bang for the buck” is an appealing concept. Here’s a free budgeting game if you want to try it with your kids.
- Make them do chores to earn money for extras like computer games. Don’t settle for half-done chores…you are training them for their future employer. If you need help with chore charts, here’s a great free resource.
- Teach clever ways to repurpose/upcycle everything from cast off clothes to leftovers in the fridge.
- Have them thoughtfully make a list of their wants vs. needs.
- When they have a car, let them fill the tank.
- Don’t pile on accolades for generally expected behavior. That future employer won’t give trophies and ribbons for being on time, cleaning up after themselves, or not cutting corners. We shouldn’t teach them to expect it. Teach them to glorify God in all things. In the end, they’ll give account to Him.
There is so much more I could say on this. I’d love to hear your thoughts and suggestions!
Without sounding all doom and gloom, harder times are coming. We want our kids to have survival skills, to remain grounded, so that basic daily needs are attainable and they are not caught like that deer in the headlights. Because when things get tougher, the biggest needs will be heart needs. The true condition of the soul is revealed in technicolor when the body is denied. We want our kids to be equipped to face all of this with confidence. To learn to work hard even when no one is looking, just like that industrious ant in Proverbs.
Speaking of Proverbs, I’ll end on this note. Moms, that lady in Proverbs 31 was said to be industrious, strong, honorable…she showed her kids what it looked like to work hard and work well (Prov. 31:24,25) and therefore she was well prepared for the future and not intimidated by it (v. 26). Let’s show our kids what this looks like too…so much more is “caught than taught”.
So what’s your first step in modeling the right example for the children in your home today? Cultivating a thankful spirit (1 Thess 5:18) in all circumstances is something I’m working on. You too? Here is a cute, free printable gratitude journal for you!