For many of you, the chaos that can mark the end of a school year is heightened with the anxiety produced by the pressure to give your kids’ teachers end of the school year gifts. The dirty little secret in education is that teachers feel as if many of the things they are given actually have very little thought or gratitude attached to them. As a Christian parent, teaching your kids to express their gratitude to others and God should be one of your priorities. So what can you do to teach your kids appropriate character lessons and help their teachers feel truly appreciated?
There is no perfect answer, because the personalities of teachers can vary more widely than one would expect. There are some ideas, however, that should appeal to the vast majority of them.
Have your kids write sincere, handwritten, specific notes. I know that for many of you, the idea of actually accomplishing this seems unbearable. However, it provides your kids an excellent lesson in going the extra mile, treating others the way you would like to be treated and showing gratitude. These notes need to be highly personal and specific. Encourage them to think of one or two examples of a time when their teachers made an impact on them. Did they have a difficult year, with a problem teacher? It happens. Even the worst teachers teach our kids something, though. They may not want to ”thank” this type of teacher for teaching them how they don’t want to treat children when they are adults, but encourage them to think hard of something positive the teacher did during the year. Notes filled with platitudes will never mean quite as much as notes that are specific. Most great teachers would probably be happier with a note like that from your child than some meaningless gift. (Note: Start really early with beginning or struggling writers. There will be a lot less stress for you and them.)
Find a gift that shows your family has been paying attention to them as people. Starbucks gift cards are great, but most teachers will never have to pay for a Starbucks drink again for the rest of their lives. How many families paid enough attention to learn that she loves to knit or wants to learn how to do something new. Or maybe she misses riding horses. Gift cards to make those things possible, along with a note connecting it to something shared during the year will let your child’s teacher know you thought of her as a real person and not just an ”employee”.
Remember the school custodian, librarian, specials teachers and others who are often forgotten. Did the school secretary help you out with something? Was the assistant principal always kind to your child? Notes from you or your kids with a small token will often mean more to the other people who work in your child’s school than an expensive gift to a teacher. No one likes to be forgotten or their kindnesses taken for granted.
Make gratitude a year long project. Want to make the end of the school year less stressful? Do all of those kind things throughout the year. A teacher who feels genuinely appreciated throughout the year will feel more encouraged than one who has presents thrown at her the last day of school that obviously have very little real thought or gratitude put into them.
Teach your kids to thank the teacher at the end of every class or day . Our daughter participated in an activity as a child that required taking a lot of classes each week. The studio insisted the children thank the teacher individually before they left the room at the end of each class. In fact, the teachers thanked the students, too. It made a difference in how they treated each other and set a great precedent.
Taking the time to help your kids express real gratitude to their teachers is a great way to teach them some important Christian character traits. Make sure you take full advantage of the opportunity.
Entitled. Greedy. That’s how the world sees young people today. It doesn’t have to be that way. Whenever I notice a greedy or entitled child or teen, I have found their parents are almost always making one or more common parenting mistakes. Since Christianity is about sharing what you have rather than focusing on amassing more, it’s important you are doing everything you can to avoid raising the stereotypical greedy and entitled child.
So what are some concrete things you can do to avoid raising greedy kids? Here are a few of our favorites.
Avoid toy aisles and stores. Parents who raise greedy kids often believe it is necessary to walk through toy aisles and stores as some sort of reward or incentive for good behavior on a family shopping excursion for needed items. The truth is your kids can’t want what they don’t know exists. Constantly parading them in front of all the things a kid can possibly want is going to make your kids want them. Toy aisles should only be visited when purchasing toys for someone else.
Stop watching entertainment with commercials. If your kids are watching entertainment, encourage them to avoid commercial tv. When they are young, screen time should be severely limited anyway. When they do watch, PBS and some streaming platforms don’t show commercials. As with the toy aisle, your kids can’t want what they don’t know exists.
Discourage them from playing the comparison game. When I was growing up, the day after Christmas was spent calling friends and comparing gifts. Remind your kids that playing the comparison game is hurtful for those who can’t afford what other families can or whose families have different values about gift giving. Comparing gifts can even convince them they really, really want something that they actually don’t care about at all. They’ve just gotten caught up in the competitive aspect of the game. Teach them how to change the subject when anyone asks them, “What’d ya get?”
Call out greed when you see it. If your child visits Santa or someone asks for a gift list, it should only contain two or three reasonable items. If your kid creates a long list, send them back to edit it. You may also need to set price limits on the gifts they can request. It’s never too early to understand money is a finite resource that must be used carefully and in godly ways. Define greed for them and choose a great Bible verse that reminds them God does not condone greed.
Clearly define wants versus needs. The slippery slope to a greedy heart often begins because we think we need something we actually just want. Spend time serving the poor. Point out that there is often joy in homes where people own less than your family does. Encourage them to think about from where that joy could come. Never allow your kids to define something they want as something they need.
Make them pay for any items they want if they can’t wait until their birthday or Christmas for them. Tolerating delayed gratification is one of the building blocks of eliminating greed. If they just can’t wait, but are too young to get a work permit, find extra jobs they can do around the house to earn the money. The bonus is developing a strong work ethic in the process.
Don’t use things to soothe your parental guilt. Parents who don’t give their kids the time and attention they need often feel guilty. They think buying their kids gifts will make up for their absence. In fact it’s so common, there’s an expression…”Your kids prefer your presence over your presents.” Instead, find ways to give your kids more of your time and attention.
Set a good example. Have you ever really listened to yourself talk? How often are you talking about the things you need or want to buy? How often do you go shopping for fun? If your kids see greed in your life, they will often copy your behaviors and attitudes. Greed can become a habit. If you’ve been greedy for a long time, breaking the habit won’t be easy. If you want to raise kids who aren’t greedy though, you’ll need to do the work to banish greed from your own life.
God calls Christians to share everything they have so others won’t lack what they need. A greedy child will become a greedy adult incapable of obeying God in this area. Stomp out greed in your kids before it becomes a habit that’s hard to break.
As a Christian parent, you’ve probably heard the story of the Good Samaritan. He was actually in a parable told by Jesus. A man was walking along a road when he was beaten, robbed and left for dead. A priest and a Levite walked right by the injured man. Although the most likely candidates to help someone, they were filled with excuses and kept going. Then a Samaritan, who culturally should have hated the injured man, stopped and provided a great deal of assistance.
The point of the parable, you may wonder? Jesus wanted it to be clear that hearts and actions are more important than words. One would think Christians and even those exposed to the story would be automatic helpers in a crisis, but a study found that only 7% of people even stopped to check on a biker who was “injured”.
How do you raise your kids to be the Good Samaritan and not the religious people who didn’t stop to help? How can you help your kids be in that 7% of people who helped?
There are six key traits of children who live their lives, making serving others a priority.
Loving Empathy. We tend to think these are two separate character traits, but you must have empathy to truly love someone. The priest and the Levite couldn’t put themselves in the place of the injured man. They couldn’t imagine themselves being in a similar situation. Their love for the man wasn’t evident, because they felt no connection to him.
Sense of Purpose. One could argue the priest and Levite thought they knew their purpose in serving God, but they missed the point of the Law. Yes, God wanted them to take care of the Temple and teach the Law, but God’s main purpose was for them to love Him with all their heart, soul and mind and love their neighbor as themselves. Had they known and embraced their full purpose in serving God, they would have realized helping the injured man was more important than where they were going. Your kids need to fully understand and embrace from a young age that their purpose in God’s Kingdom includes serving others and sharing their faith.
Godly Priorities. Life is about choices. Your kids need to have a great understanding of God’s priorities for their life and match their priorities to His. The priest and Levite misunderstood God’s priorities and replaced the important with the urgent. They focused on chores rather than service and ministry.
Time Management Skills. We don’t know much about the priest and the Levite. One has to wonder, though. If they had stopped and helped the injured man, would they really have missed doing what they were going to do? Maybe if they had gotten up a few minutes earlier or been better organized, they could have easily done both things. In the study mentioned earlier, the majority of the 93% who didn’t help the injured biker cited lack of time as their reason. If your kids learn how to trim wasted time and manage their time in an organized fashion, they will accomplish more of the good works God has planned for them to do.
Generosity. The parable doesn’t address the priest and Levite’s financial concerns, if any, but it does tell us the Good Samaritan spent money on the care of the injured man. There’s no indication he expected it to be paid back or wanted anything in return for his generosity. The Samaritan recognized money was needed to care for the man and he was more than willing to share what he had to make sure those caring for the man had enough money to do so. Your kids need to learn to be generous with their time and money to truly be Good Samaritans.
Skills. We don’t know what skills or talents God had gifted to the Good Samaritan. Maybe he was a doctor. Maybe he knew first aid. Good Samaritans don’t always need to use a skill to help someone, but if they do it’s important to be ready. Your kids need to discover and be developing their gifts from God so when they need them to serve Him, they will be ready.
Courage. The parable doesn’t mention whether or not the Good Samaritan had any fear in the moment he decided to help. He would have been justified if he had been afraid though. Those robbers could still be lurking nearby and attack him. The man was a Jew and he was a Samaritan. The hatred between the two groups was huge. People would walk miles out of their way to avoid touching the very land where Samaritans lived. There could have been repercussions for touching a Jew, much less helping one. Whether he was courageous by nature or had to summon the courage to help, the Good Samaritan showed courage by stopping and helping. Your kids need to understand God may ask them to help others in ways that feel scary to them. They will need to learn to trust in God and be brave to do those good works God has planned for them.
Good Samaritans are lovingly created by parents teaching and molding their children to be who God created them to be…someone who willingly serves others. Taking the time to develop these traits in your kids will make it more likely they will be life long Good Samaritans.
Have you ever read the book of Acts in the Bible? Time and time again, it talks about Christians who shared everything they had and took up collections to help others – often in the middle of their own hardships and persecution.
The other day I heard a preacher say something that really struck a chord with me. He said often when Christians receive a blessing from God, they are grateful. They pray their thanksgiving to God. But their gratitude stops there. The preacher went on to say that he believed God never intended for the gratitude of Christians to stop at feeling appreciation and giving thanks. God meant for gratitude to include sharing those blessings with others who don’t have the same blessing.
Have you ever considered that every time God gives you a blessing, you should think of a way to share it? Not just money, but any and every blessing? Have you taught your kids about this important twist to gratitude?
For the rest of this year, spend time each day discussing a blessing God has given each of you. Thank Him for it. Then talk about ways you can share that gift with others.
Be creative. If you need ideas, our main website has dozens and dozens of service project ideas that could easily be completed by families as well as Bible classes. They are even connected to Bible stories in meaningful ways. Then come to our Parenting Like Hannah Facebook Community and share some of the creative ways your family has shared a blessing God has given you. Your idea may spur other families to do the good works God has planned for them. Along the way, your family will hopefully develop the habit of sharing every blessing God gives you. It’s a great way to show God your gratitude.
Kids often think if they can just have the next new thing, they will be happy. As adults, we’ve hopefully learned that we can’t fill the space in our lives meant for God with things. There is always something new or something better or something more. Rarely, does a greedy person ever believe they have enough money or “stuff”.
There’s a fun family devotional you can do with your kids that involves an object lesson. Before your kids join you, find a tin can that has a safety cut lid with no sharp edges. Put about an inch or two of fingernail polish remover with acetone in the can. (Remover without acetone won’t work.) You will also need a huge pile of styrofoam packing noodles.
Call your kids together. Tell them about King Solomon. Remind them he asked God for wisdom, so God said He would also grant Solomon wealth because he had chosen wisdom. Read them 1 Kings 10:14-29. In today’s money, Solomon’s worth is estimated to be $2 trillion!
But when he was older, Solomon wrote the book Ecclesiastes because he learned a hard lesson about money and things. Ask your kids to make a pile of styrofoam noodles that will fill the can you have chosen. Slowly begin dropping one noodle in at a time. As you drop a noodle, ask your kids what are some of the things they would buy if they had $10. With each noodle, raise the amount of money they can spend. The noodles should be dissolving in the acetone. (Reminder this is a toxic chemical and should be watched carefully around children. Dispose of properly afterwards, so they don’t mistake it for water and drink it.)
Eventually, all of the noodles in their pile should be gone and the can still hasn’t filled with noodles. Similarly, if you made the jumps in money small enough, there should still be things they want to buy. Now start adding the remaining noodles from the original pile. Note that the can never fills with noodles and they never run out of ways to spend the money.
Explain that the acetone represents the greed that can grow in our hearts. We can feed it money and things, but it will devour them and still want more.
Read 1 Corinthians 6:10. Ask your kids what God would prefer us to have in our hearts other than greed.