Q: It's Thanksgiving, but I feel like my kids are anything but thankful. They have a staggering sense of entitlement. How can I combat this?
Jim: The answer depends on your kids' ages. Preschoolers are too young to grasp ideas like unselfishness and gratitude. That doesn't mean you shouldn't try to teach these concepts, but don't be overly concerned if your young children haven't caught on quite yet.
Older kids are another matter. This is where many parents come face-to-face with the impact of our materialistic, consumer-driven culture. Advertisers and toy manufacturers aren't in the business of helping parents teach contentment and thankfulness. From their perspective, children are a lucrative sector of the "market," and they design their publicity campaigns accordingly. As a result, children are conditioned to believe that they're entitled to have everything they want -- right now!
One of the best ways you can counter this mentality is by modeling gratitude yourself. Actions speak louder than words. As you go through your daily routine, remember to express thankfulness on a regular basis -- even for simple things like a roof over your head and food on the table. The practice of thanksgiving should not be confined to one Thursday in November.
Another way to help your child develop a grateful heart is by serving others who are less fortunate. Volunteer to serve meals at a local rescue mission. Visit shut-ins at a nursing home. Sign up to sponsor an underprivileged child in the developing world through a ministry like World Vision or Compassion International. This is a wonderful way to increase your entire family's awareness of the blessings they enjoy while getting in touch with the needs of people around the world.
Q: I do not feel "in love" with my mate. What should I do?
Jim: Love is more than a feeling. It's a decision! I'll let Focus on the Family's executive director of Marriage and Family Formation, Dr. Greg Smalley, explain.
Greg: As a marriage counselor, I often hear couples say, "I don't feel love for my mate anymore." To be honest, that statement does not cause me much concern. It simply provides an opportunity to challenge the couple's beliefs about love and its origins.
I remember the day I fell in love with Erin, the woman who would become my wife. As I reveled in those early feelings of infatuation, I had no idea that there would be times in our marriage when we would fight, and when we would experience moments of conflict so painful that we would doubt our love for one another. During these times, I tried to figure out what was wrong with me -- or with her. Was I incapable of generating love? Was there some flaw in Erin that made her "unlovable"?
After a long process of prayer, soul-searching and counseling, I learned to make the conscious decision to view Erin as God sees her -- valuable and precious. I realized that I had closed the door to my heart, preventing the flow of love. I'd become so busy focusing on her faults (and ignoring my own) that I had closed the doors to my heart.
And so I stopped worrying about whether or not I felt "in love." Rather than trying to manufacture feelings of love, I would ask myself, "Is my heart open or closed to my wife?" Since I did not have any ability to create love, I made the focus on the state of my own heart, which is something I can control. I encourage you and your spouse to sit down with a counselor who can help you work through this issue. Visit focusonthefamily.com for a referral.
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.