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Parenting Tip July 3, 2008
A Demand, A Desire, and A Wish
Children develop typical responses when parents give a no answer. The three-year-old bursts into tears because he can't have candy in the store. The ten-year-old says, "Fine!" and huffs off to the other room when her mom says "no" to more computer time. The fifteen-year-old starts yelling at his mom because she won't drive him to his friend's house. Each of these situations provides an opportunity to teach contentment.
One dad said it this way, "I taught my twelve-year-old son the difference between a demand, a desire, and a wish. When he comes down to dinner and sees spaghetti, he might express a wish saying, 'I wish there were meatballs in this sauce.' Or, he might come down and say, 'I want meatballs in my spaghetti sauce.' That's a 'desire' response, stronger than a wish. But when he comes down and says, 'I'm not eating that spaghetti without meatballs,' and then makes unkind statements to his mother, he's moved to demandingness. This distinction has helped my son because now he tries to move demands back to desires or wishes."
One of the signs of spiritual maturity is that a person exchanges demandingness for contentment. Paul said in Philippians 4:11 that contentment didn't automatically appear but it was something he learned, "I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances."
Contentment is being grateful for what you have instead of grumbling about what you don't have. It's a spiritual quality that adds peace and joy to our lives without feeling that we need something more.
As with many spiritual qualities, contentment is learned at home. Children are often tempted to be demanding with parents and others. When we, as parents, teach our children to accept a no answer graciously, then we are moving them toward contentment. This doesn't mean that your children need to release any sense of ambition in life. It does mean that as they work toward a goal, they maintain an internal peace and the ability to accept limitations and value relationships in the process.
For more ideas about developing contentment, read chapter 5 in the book Good and Angry: Exchanging Frustration for Character in You and Your Kids. To gain some fun curriculum for kids that teaches the value of correction, consider the Treasure Hunters children’s curriculum for kids ages 3-12.
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