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How Do You Teach Contentedness?

Maddie is having a big issue with greed
right now, preschooler-style. If I give her a treat – say, a
cookie – she’ll ask for another one ten minutes later.
If I let her have a donut hole after church, she’ll ask to
stop for lunch at IHOP on the way home. And woe be unto me if Cora
gets something –perhaps a new pair of jeans to fill out a
hole in her wardrobe – and Maddie does not. Then we get the
tears and the “PLEASE!!” and the “It’s not

We’ve spent a lot of time these past few months talking about
being content with what you have, and a few times we’ve had
to do some harsh consequences. A couple spectacular days of begging
for sweets, and Maddie lost having any kind of food treat for two
weeks. That was rough, and I thought had taught her a lesson
– treats are privileges, not rights, and should be few and
far between – but she quickly fell back into her old

I struggle with the best way to help her
learn this lesson, and I’m not sure I’m doing a great
job. We have conversations about being grateful for what
you’ve got, and she’ll nod her head solemnly and act as
if she gets it, then two hours later start angling for a new book
or another dinner out. It seems to be permeating every area at some
time or another: food, gifts, wardrobe (“I don’t like
any of my dresses! I need new ones!”), books, quality time
with parents, and so on.

She’s not always a selfish beast, of course, and when she
does go into selfish mode she’s not the mean little monster
(“I hate you! Why don’t you give me what I
want??”) but rather the sad neglected child (“I
don’t understand! I really really want it! Please!” as
she falls on the floor sobbing). And I know gifts is one of her
love languages, so at least a small part of her feels in some way
less loved because I won’t buy her what she wants. But I
can’t keep doling out or opening up the cookie jar to make
her feel loved – that’s not helping her in the long

Maddie understands that we choose carefully where we spend our
money, and we’ve talked about stewardship a lot, and if I
give her cash of her own she’ll make very deliberate choices.
I’m sure we’ll get over this hurdle eventually. But in
the midst of it, I feel the pressure keenly – how she comes
out of this life lesson will absolutely shape how she looks at a
lot of things as an adult.

No pressure to get it right, or anything.


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