3 Ways to Cultivate Content Hearts

Friday, February 10, 2017

Years ago, a post went viral from an anthropologist. He had traveled to several countries, first world and third world, photographing children with their possessions. Some of the children were photographed in their luxurious bedroom surrounded by literally hundreds of toys, dolls, and collectables. It was a sharp contrast to two pictures I remember clearly still: A boy sitting on a dirt floor with a toy truck, and a little girl with a simple doll. Both had smiles on their face. The interesting part of the article, which was mostly told in pictures, was that the photographer mentioned that the children with the least were the most willing to share. They wanted him to hold their one possession; they seemed to hold it loosely. On the other hand, some of the kids with the most preferred he not touch their myriad of things.

I realize the above is an example in extremes, so please don't hear me say that your child should only have one doll! But the takeaway lesson is clear: simplicity breeds contentment. We live in a fast paced culture: technology moves along at breakneck speed, the latest trends are near impossible to keep up with, and social media is in our, and our children's, face telling us what we aren't measuring up to. How on earth are we supposed to raise our girls to have content hearts in a world that wants more, more, MORE?! It's challenging and takes being intentional, but it's possible! Let's explore the ways, shall we?

3 Ways to Cultivate a Content Heart:

1. Keep it simple. As I recently heard a pastor say, "Simple is not stupid."
Contrary to popular belief, children do not need every latest, greatest toy that comes out. In fact, the fewer toys, the greater his or her contentment, creativity, attention span, and ability to focus will be. Case in point: We have some friends who have a huge home and literally, every room of the home (even the bathroom!) is filled to the brim with toys. When we go there for dinner, our kids fight over things, whine, get bored, and make a giant mess (which they also whine about having to clean up at the end of the night!). By sharp contrast, when kids come to our house to play, they often comment with disappointment upon arriving, "Where are all the toys?" But they leave exhausted from all the fun that was made: dressing up and putting on a dance show, building forts, playing outside, etc. We do have toys, but we try to keep it paired down to things that will make the girls think and use their imagination.

2. Cultivate gratitude in your home
Gratitude goes a lot deeper than saying "thank you" upon receiving something. It's an inward attitude of true heartfelt thankfulness, and it's SO hard to teach. This is something that will take years and years of consistency and requires a good example, prayer, and talking about gratitude. A mom who complains is sure to bring up a daughter who complains. A mom who remains cheerful and makes it a habit to point out the positive aspects, even on hard days, will eventually see the fruit of that consistency in her daughter (though it may take years...children are natural born complainers!) Among many other specific things, we should be praying for our children to have content, thankful hearts; God is ultimately the one who will change her heart, though he uses us moms as a tool for sure! We also have to talk about gratitude. I'll be doing a separate post on how to talk to your daughter about gratitude soon. It's much too big of a subject in and of itself to cover here!

3. Say no more often...and no, you aren't ruining their childhood!
The apostle Paul said in Philippians, 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. Paul wouldn't have known how to really be content, had he had a smooth road everyday, no trials to face, no opposition, a great big house with servants and feasts each day. No! He learned contentment because of the hardships he faced. Mom, it's okay for your daughter to face hardships and disappointments! I'm all for giving our kids a beautiful, fun and amazing childhood! But it's important for children to have unmet wants, otherwise, we have raised spoiled, entitled humans who aren't content unless things go their way. My weakness is giving my girls snacks constantly; I can't bear when they look at me saying we're soooo hungry mom! And so my kids pick at their meals because I've unwisely fed them all day, rather than allowing them to go play and be hungry, and then come in for a nice supper that they actually eat. We don't have to say yes to every birthday party, every request, every invite, every want. We can, and should, say no. We're doing them a favor, though the tears and tantrums and looks of disappointment will sting in the moment. Sometimes the most loving thing we can do as parents is to kindly say no.

While none of these methods will produce results over night, with consistency through the eighteen or so years we have with our kids under our roof (whew, that's a long time to be consistent! Give yourself some grace!), we will send our girls out into the world, confident that they will be content, thankful human beings, shining their light to those around them.




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