This past summer, my kids, dog and I went to a cabin by a lake for a week. We enjoyed the quiet mornings and, in the afternoons, went cave exploring and ax throwing. It was a great vacation except for one thing.
My son couldn’t seem to enjoy himself on vacation because he wished for something more. You see, we’d previously discussed getting another dog since our toy poodle passed away in February. I’d said we would wait until after vacation. Now that we were on vacation, he was obsessed with thoughts about a new dog.
A new dog was all he could talk about. He wanted to end the vacation early so he could get a new dog. The Monday after we returned home, we went to the animal shelter and found the perfect snuggle dog for us: Twizzler.
The kids were in love. It took just a couple days for our German Shepard to get used to her, but once she did, our Shepard started paying more attention to the new dog instead of my son.
Suddenly my son began complaining again. He wished our Shepard would act like she used to and not be obsessed with the new dog. I wanted to scream, “Can’t you ever be happy?” I’d just bought him a dog for goodness sake.
Discontentment Grows When We Aren’t Focused on God
After I stepped back and calmed down, it left me wondering how often I ask God for something and the moment I receive it, I wish for something else or for the way things used to be
As a single mom who faced depression, I know firsthand how discontentment can grow in your heart. I don’t want to set my son up for the same cycle of wanting then wanting more.
Our default reaction is to complain. Being people of thankfulness takes work. But it’s worth the effort. No one wants to be around a grumpy, complaining person. We seek out those who uplift and inspire us and make us smile.
I want to be that kind of person for others, and I desire the same for my children. The strategies I look for contentment in my life is very similar to the way to prevent discontentment from growing my heart.
Beating Discontentment With Gratefulness
I’ve been working with my son to replace our complaining with thankfulness. Each night when I tuck my son in, we take turns naming things we are grateful for that day until we hit ten things.
He resisted the first couple of nights, but we’re starting to hit a stride. Plus setting this routine with him allows me to list my grateful items to God as well.
I’m not naïve enough to think all the complaining is gone, but I do hope to cultivate more gratefulness than grouchiness in my house.
1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NIV)
Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
Replacing Complaining with Serving Others
Immersing yourself into someone else’s pain and suffering will quickly quiet complaints about yourself. Serving others works exceptionally well with children. I’ve taken my kids to serve sandwiches after school to other children who often go without dinner. We spend a couple of hours serving these kids dinner and cleaning up afterward.
Seeing a young child walk blocks by herself to get a sandwich for dinner reminds you everything you have to be grateful for in your life.
Often kindness begets kindness. The more acts of service we participate in the more ideas my children come up with on their own. Whether it be surprising their bus driver with chocolate or inviting a lonely child to sit next to them, all of these acts naturally cause us to look outside of our circumstances.
Pray for Contentment
Above all, pray for a heart change, whether it’s for yourself or your child. It’s a prayer God longs to answer.
Philippians 4:11-13 (NIV)
I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
Jennifer writes at Sunflower Mom and podcasts at Grace for Single Parenting to encourage single moms to live fully in the season they’re in through God’s grace and love. At any given day you can find her eating chips & salsa and binge-watching Modern Family with her kids.