Beating First World Syndrome

entitledDo 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.

cereals

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!

 

 

Let It Go, Mom.

katieoutfitIn going through “Throwback Thursday” photos on Facebook recently, I came across this one. Thinking about it again today, I realized I’ve contrived my own version of “Let It Go”. Mismatched, out-of-season clothes…is that kid happy, loved, fed, modest, and relatively clean? Let it go. On Sundays, I get to pick what she wears, but she does her own styling the rest of the week. If I’m worried about it, it’s because others may think I’m a bad mom for not color coordinating everything, making sure it is a fashionable ensemble. It doesn’t matter. A decade from now, she won’t remember what she wore. Neither will I. She needs to be a kid. 

ps This same principle applies to Pop Tarts for breakfast, school on the trampoline, homeschooling (or not), cloth diapers (or not), nursing your baby (or not), and a host of other things. Let other moms have the same latitude you need. Embrace and encourage your mom friends right where they are…because we all need that. Rest in what your own crazy normal looks like today, and help other moms who are wearily wielding their swords to find rest for their souls. It’s in Jesus, in His perfection. It’s not in trying to attain “perfect mom” status. That’s just plain exhausting.

Lay it all before God, and honor Him.

“Becoming Mom Strong” Launch!

momstrongbookcoverI’m beyond excited about this opportunity to help launch Heidi St. John’s new book, “Becoming Mom Strong”! This is a timely, biblically-based perspective on today’s parenting…because what we are facing ain’t your mama’s motherhood experience. I love what Heidi has said in our launch group (don’t worry…I won’t be sharing anything of a personal nature from this private group):

I truly believe that you are part of a very special generation of mothers—tasked with raising kids in a culture that is rapidly moving toward moral relativism and away from the things that God says bring life. We’re going to be talking about the very real struggles we are facing right now—but we’re also going to laugh (a lot) pray for each other and learn to see ourselves the way God sees us… as women who have been set apart “for such a time as this,” capable, loved, chosen. In other words, “MomStrong!”

Do you have days (sometimes weeks?) when you feel like you’re just not doing this thing right? It’s time for some empowerment, ladies. Lasting, rock-solid, uplifting words from our Almighty Creator God!

Pre-order the book here!

Parenting Teens: A Certain, Tearful Angst

My mom used to tell me that on the first day of kindergarten, I took my brother’s hand and walked out the door, and never looked back. There was no wistful backward glance. No yearning to remain home. My eyes were set toward what was ahead. I guess I’ve always been a teen at heart.

I’m sure there are moms out there who can understand what I’m going to say. We see our teens growing up, forming their own set of ideals, deciding upon a path…and it feels we are not needed anymore. Their eyes are turning more and more toward that exciting path ahead, and away from the humdrum of home. We need to be okay with it.

That stalwart independence changed for me as a freshman in college. Plunked down in a southern culture that was strange to me, into a room I had to share with two other girls (having never shared a room in my life), into an academic setting where I was so on my own…I felt lonely. No familiar friends. A new church. New ways. I felt like an immigrant, and it was good for me. It made me turn to the only One who is unfailingly there for me. The One who never changes, who always has the right answer, and whose grace is forever sufficient. Sometimes we need to feel alone so that we will finally realize we never will be. (Heb. 13:5)

During that freshman year, there were lots of long distance calls placed on that one phone hanging in the hallway on the first floor of Ruby Wagner dormitory. I didn’t want to hang up. “Humdrum” had a sparkling new appeal to me.

My parents did the right thing. They made me stick to commitments. They let me make mistakes, without coming to my rescue every time. They made me hang up the phone eventually. I changed my major two times that year. Psychology, then English Ed. They let me try to find myself. I changed a third time after I’d transferred to BJU. Church Ministries. It was my niche, and I’d finally found it. It did not promise a six figure income, or positions and promotions and notoriety. It was who I was, and still am. They didn’t understand it, but they supported me. Later, when they came to know the Lord, they began to “get” it.

How my parents must have wondered and worried, meeting a new young man each time they came to visit me. They never lectured. There was only one comment I remember that could have been interpreted as advice or censure…and it still makes me smile. My mom looked at photos of the current dashing young man and simply said, “You need to find someone who is worthwhile on the inside, Diane…after 65 they all start to look the same anyway.” Funny…but good advice! 😉 They met Patrick a year or so later. He was an older undergrad student, due to graduate within a year. A ministerial student…with no house, no big buck paycheck guarantee…but his honest heart allowed them to see that he would always be a safe place for me. And they let go.

daddyI never saw my dad cry. Ever. Until my wedding day. I took his arm at the top of the aisle in that little southern country church, and I felt him shudder. I didn’t dare look at him, or I would have gone into that “ugly cry”. We made it to the front. He was able to utter the words “Her mother and I” and he sat down to watch it all…the process of giving me away. Then came the receiving line. His emotions caught up with him. The finality pressed in his heart. He broke down in my arms. I didn’t cry. My nerves had settled. The ceremony and formalities were done, and my eyes were looking forward.

My parents are both gone now. I can’t tell them that I am gaining a new perspective. Learning about a new level of faith. Realizing new fears in my heart which need to be conquered by the One who holds all my times in His hand. (Psalm 31)

I’m beginning to understand that certain, tearful angst.

Train ‘Em Up, Turn ‘Em Loose

ImageToday I posted the following as a Facebook status:

 Sooner or later we need to begin to trim the apron strings and let our kids figure out how much of what we’ve done to “train them up” is indeed *theirs*. Not easy.

And I’ve decided whoever the folks are that created the little “feeling…” emoticons need to broaden their vocabulary. None of my choices were available.

It isn’t easy. And the conflicted emotions are hard to name.

I think part of this is because we as moms have so much of our identity wrapped up in our kids, for better or for worse. Should that be the case?  Well, our identity should be in Christ.  However, we often tend to think of our kids as an extension of ourselves.  Yet another avenue through which people can evaluate who we are, whether our parenting skills are up to snuff, whether we have enough fashion savvy, if we spend our money well, if our standards are “strong”…oy.

When our kids get to be a bit older, we try to give more responsibility to them. Allow them to dress themselves, decide how to budget money, exercise discernment with relationships (well, discernment on so many levels).  We begin to “take risks”.

To trim (not necessarily cut, but whittle away at) those apron strings means they will probably blow it.  Kids do.  Some need to fall harder than others before they learn.  For parents, it’s hard to watch.

It is also hard to know others are watching, sometimes judging. For PK’s (preacher’s kids) it can be even more challenging, because our kids are supposed to be the “standard.”  I’ve only been a pastor’s wife for a year, but I’ve tried never to play the “You’re the pastor’s kid” card.  The Accountability Bar needs to be raised higher than that, really.

If our kids indeed find their identity in Christ (and we must foster this in them, teach them to own this, because the whole peer situation is very intimidating, and in some ways beckons to the insecurities in our kids with a siren’s call), then ultimately they need to grasp that they answer to Him. If they strive to please Him, we’ll be delighted.

Some kids are wired to welcome continued directives, while others may be of a more independent nature.  I was that kind of kid, from the time I was in kindergarten. My mom would tell the story of my first day of kindergarten, watching me walk up the alley to school with my brother, and never looking back.  It wasn’t that I hated home. I am positively a homebody now.  It was the simple fact that I was ready to be brave, to try new things, to learn, to explore.  Even though my parents did not trust Christ until their latter years, they had some wisdom with their tactics in handling me.  They knew if they tied me down with too many restraints, I’d find a way to break free (I did not trust Christ until 2 weeks before high school graduation).  Indeed, my unregenerate heart was very clever in devising ways around the rules.  If we s-mother our kids into a headlock (even with the best of intentions), I believe we can easily provoke them…maybe not to wrath, but perhaps to contempt.  But I will say that when I found myself in pressured situations, the thought that always came back to me was, “How would I explain this to them?  How could I look my dad in the eyes?”  My love for my folks kept me out of some deep waters.

And now, we find ourselves with two teens in the house.  Teaching them to accept responsibility, to initiate charitable responses, to shirk compromise, to deny self, to do the hard things…wow, it’s a challenge.

One thing that has come to the forefront in my Bible study this past year, is that the Savior graciously trimmed all of the hundreds of OT points of the law down to two “simple” items:  love God entirely, and love others humbly and sacrificially.  If our kids can get these things, I mean really get them woven into their spiritual fabric, what a wonderful thing that would be.

Our recurring theme verse in our house this first year of ministry has been Philippians 2:3–

Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.

If our kids learn the valuable principles in this gem of a verse, it will govern many difficult “coming of age” issues:

  • No strife–that means no bullying, no demeaning–we show respect in all relationships
  • No vainglory–that means no immodestly showing off, in dress, action, words–we treasure every good and perfect gift (including their health, which they may be tempted to taint with harmful substances)as coming from God’s hand, giving Him praise by how we cherish and demonstrate them.
  • Yes to “lowliness of mind”–no “me first,” no “my rights,”–we are bought with a price, and owe everything to the One who bought us.
  • Yes to “esteeming others better than me”–if we esteem them even as much as we do ourselves, that would be significant…to put others before us is divinely remarkable. So, I will be willing to deny myself of anything you can name if it helps me to put others first.

Tall orders.  It’s been said that parenting is not for the faint of heart. To nurture, and not crush; tend but not strip new foliage; till, but not tear tender roots; water, but not drown; illuminate, but not scorch; fertilize, but not overload. 😉

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. Prov. 22:6

My husband wisely reminded us recently in church that this verse above is a proverb, not a promise.  It is our duty to train, the best way we know how. To teach our kids not just in special “family devotion” times…but more practically as they move through their day, drawing applications from scripture from everyday events and choices.  The departing, well, that is a choice. Even if we do everything “right,” it is no guarantee that our kids will become everything we hope for them. We teach, we model (sometimes what they should do, and other times they will glean lessons on what not to do…because we fail too), we read, we pray, we guide, we reconcile, we love.

Then, we let go.

But we still hold on tight to them, on our knees.