"Why is it that a two-year-old is often happier playing in the box a toy came in rather than playing with the actual toy? Why is it that children living in poverty in third-world countries seem happier and more content than kids in wealthy nations? Because neither is caught in the trap of comparisons. They don’t know what they are missing out on. They are simply grateful."
That's the idea behind Smart Money, Smart Kids, a brand-new book out by Dave Ramsey and Rachel Cruze. Literally, it just came out today. I think.
I remember one Christmas when I was a kid, probably eight years old, I was tearing open presents like a madman... er, boy. My stack of presents was pretty big, and was piling up so fast that I couldn't unwrap them fast enough. I was oblivious to everyone else in our small crowded living room—my cousins Nick and Danny, my aunts and uncles, my sister Tess, my parents. I couldn't think of anything else but me. Me and all those glorious presents that just kept on coming!
I don't remember being aware of Philip until my dad tapped me on the shoulder and asked me to come into the bedroom. He closed the door behind me and told me that Philip was a foster kid, just a little older than me, who had been sent to live with my aunt and uncle the day before Christmas. No one knew he was coming, so no one had gotten him any presents. I remember feeling a little embarrassed at that point by all the presents I had so greedily been diving into.
Dad made me put on my coat and boots and we drove into town looking for a store, any store, that was actually open on Christmas. When we found a little hardware/convenient store, dad took me inside and asked me to pick out a couple presents I thought Philip might like. I found a radio-controlled car and an action figure. We took the toys back to our apartment, wrapped them, and gave them to Philip.
I don't know if Philip expected to get anything for Christmas or not, but being a boy of around 10 or 11, I'm sure he was hoping for something. The look on his face when I handed him the presents was one of surprise and happiness. He had that radio-controlled car racing around the kitchen in just a few minutes.
I tell this story because I think, more often than not, we see kids on Christmas throwing temper tantrums because they didn't get what they wanted, or they didn't get enough. I tell ya, it was an eye-opening thing for me to witness a kid like Philip endure a Christmas fast while I was enjoying a Christmas feast.
In their book, Smart Money, Smart Kids, Dave and Rachel talk about raising children who are sincerely grateful for what they have. How do you teach a child to develop an attitude of gratitude? How do you show them what it is to appreciate what they've got?
I think for my kids it's going to involve taking them to a soup kitchen or homeless shelter on Christmas Eve where they can help serve the less fortunate at a time when they're getting plenty. I want to give them a visual picture to keep in mind whenever they think they don't have enough, or complain because of what they have. Because I'll tell you this, after I gave those presents to Philip and went back to my stack of gifts—which had grown considerably in the time it took my dad and I to go on our brief shopping trip—I didn't have the same greedy, gimmie-gimmie attitude. I was sort of blown away by what my dad had done, and embarrassed that I didn't see the need that he saw in Philip.
"We all have things to count as blessings, but we also have a tendency to lose our sense of awe and our sense of gratitude. Make sure your heart is full of gratitude for the blessings in your own life. Let your children witness this in you, and they will want to respond with gratitude for the blessings in their own lives." —Smart Money, Smart Kids.
What has it been like for you teaching your kids to be grateful?
Keep pinchin' :-)