Charlie Brown and his Peanuts gang had it down pat. Their song ''Happiness'' (from You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown), is a harmonious melody about cheerful things like learning to whistle, or tying your shoe for the very first time.
Sadly, last Christmas was proof that many kids today are not content with ''two kinds of ice cream'', or ''pizza with sausage'' (and don't get me started on ''sharing a sandwich''). No, most kids would rather have the latest gadgets and games, or maybe the hottest toys that their classmates already have. A lot of them -- mine included -- pouted when they did not get everything on their wish lists.
Larry Uy, KIDS Ministry Pastor of Victory Greenhills shares that his older kids Gelo and Monty are no exception. ''My second son Monty was praying for an expensive pair of shoes that he really wanted. He almost did, when his grandparents insisted on buying them, but then my wife and I had to turn them down. It really was not about if we could afford those gifts but rather, what we teach them in return.'' He adds, ''The heart is a breeding ground; my wife and I always check what is in the heart of our kids. Discontentment, jealousy, greed, and entitlement come from the heart and we explain to our kids to always guard their hearts -- not look at things and aspire for things that we don't have but appreciate and be grateful for the things that we do have.''
''With the advent of technology, especially the Internet, their contentment is all the more tested. What that blonde kid with blue eyes is playing, the Asian kid wants too,'' Uy says.
''The Internet and cable TV are contributing factors. The marketing groups are really focusing on the kids. Nowadays, kids outgrow toys so early that what manufacturers do is adapt to their interests. For example, boys love superheroes but preteens, 10 to 12 years old, might start to shy away from buying action figures. Since they most likely have cell phones or gadgets as the 'in' thing, some gadget casings or accessories now have superheroes as their theme or graphics,'' Uy explains.
Nixing the gimmes
A rule of thumb in parenting is that kids who always get what they want will always want more. He says that it all boils down to how much parents are willing to give in. Here are some tips that he shares to help kids enjoy the simple things in life:
1. Walk the talk or live by example. This is always what I have in mind; consumerism or materialism is not only in kids but also in adults. Credit cards, for example, encourage our nature as humans to keep on acquiring things. We need to show our kids about contentment and gratefulness first by our own actions.
2. Teach them the value of savings. Books with stories such as ''The Ant and The Grasshopper'' still work. A good friend, wealth coach Chinkee Tan, says the formula to manage your money is to have 40% Savings; 10% Tithe; 10% Giving; and 40% Spending -- the percentage may differ, but the principle is the same. We should teach our kids this formula. I also learned to have kids list down how they spend their money, so they could analyze their spending habit.
3. Train them in delayed gratification. Do not always give in to their requests or to instantly reward kids. This could prevent kids from always expecting gifts or rewards.
5. Teach kids that we are a channel of blessing. The reward of teaching kids this value may not be evident at once, but is a very wise investment for future harvest.
6. Spend time with your kids. No amount of expensive gifts can replace your time with them. I recommend simple activities such as movie and popcorn nights at home or date days in the park or coffee shop -- these are perfect ways to have their guards down for that very important talk. Family trips are great bonding times, this he highly recommends.
He ends with this thought. ''We need to train them now. We need to be consistent in training them. When we say that these kids are the future of our nation, we should mean it and not just be giving lip service. The future of our society are in our hands that's why we need to raise up our children to be Godly and not worldly; grateful and not greedy; content and not materialistic.''