Seven Reasons Parents Overindulge Their Children
Kristen Welch, a mother of three, tells of the challenge to raise kids who are grateful and content, and points to guilt as the real reason parents cater to their kids. Welch gives seven reasons parents overindulge their children, which results in kids who feel entitled.
About the Guest
Mercy House and Fair Trade Friday and sometimes I write books. I love traveling and experiencing new cultures, trying new foods, and I’m a big fan o...more
Kristen Welch gives seven reasons parents overindulge their children, which results in kids who feel entitled.
Seven Reasons Parents Overindulge Their Children
Bob: Kristen Welch is a mom who believes that parents need to be hard on their kids—loving but hard. And the reason is—parents have to get their kids ready for what’s coming.
Kristen: The world isn’t going to be easy. There’s not going to be someone rushing in to fix all of your problems. When you are late for work, over and over and over, your boss probably isn’t going to say, “Well, it’s okay.” There’s going to be a consequence. “If I fix everything and I make everything easy, and I don’t prepare you for your life outside the home, then I failed you.”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, February 17th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. So where is the line, as a parent, between being too hard or too soft on your kids? We’ll spend time exploring that today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I think we have to admit that the culture we live in is not a culture that fosters contentedness and being happy with the circumstance you find yourself in. We live in a world that promotes discontentedness. Most of the advertising you see—
Dennis: Right; right.
Bob: —is all about, “You can’t be happy until you have this.”
Dennis: Right. “What you have is not enough, and you need to go buy or experience what we have.”
Dennis: And we have the author of a brand-new book called Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World. Kristen Welch joins us on FamilyLife Today. Kristen, welcome back.
Kristen: Thank you. Glad to be here.
Dennis: Kristen and her husband Terrell have three children. They live near Houston. She gives leadership to a ministry called Mercy House, which is a ministry reaching out to kids who don’t have a lot—in fact, very, very little—in third-world countries.
Bob: Yes; in fact, tell our listeners a little about Mercy House, and how it got started, and what you guys are trying to do.
Kristen: Yes; Mercy House Global is a ministry that works to equip and empower women around the globe—women who are oppressed and impoverished. Most live on less than $1 a day. Our flagship ministry is two maternity homes in Nairobi, Kenya, that we started in 2010, where we rescue the most at-risk girls in the country—who are young and pregnant. We help them have their babies and help them get on their feet and teach them skills. One of the skills we teach them is how to make a fair trade product—and then job skills.
Then we have volunteers—a lot of parents and their kids come and serve—and help us pack up fair trade subscription boxes that we mail out to about 3,200 club members around the US in an effort to provide jobs for women in poverty.
Our philosophy is: “We’re going to buy—we live in a consuming country. Let’s learn how to buy right and provide jobs for women, in Jesus’ name.”
Bob: If I’m signed up for a subscription box, what might I get some month?
Kristen: You would get a lovely pair of earrings, probably—[Laughter]
Bob: That would be great; yes.
Kristen: —bracelets; necklaces—a lot of jewelry; coffee; tea; home décor—pretty much anything you would want to give as a gift or keep for yourself.
Bob: And you’ve also got something that families can use as a way to help their children gain a global perspective and to maybe help break some of the entitlement mentality that all of us are born with.
Kristen: Yes; I created this resource to go along with the book, Raising Grateful Kids;because I need a practical way to bring it to my kitchen table and to talk about it at dinner. We created this resource called “The Global Family Kit.” There are six family nights in every kit—it brings in a lot of education about cultures, recipes, and words in their languages, and unreached people groups and their biggest needs.
But there’s also a lot of tangible, practical things for kids to learn like: “What’s it like to go to school there?” and “What’s it like for a day in the life of a child?” “How far do they have to walk for water?” There’s a game to play with a ball for each of the family nights.
Dennis: You’ve been on this subject of contentment, and really trying to go after entitlement, and trying to help parents do this with their families. Back in 2014, you took a survey of parents just to find out how frequently the issue of entitlement comes up in people’s families. What were the results of that survey?
Kristen: Well, within 24 hours of putting the survey on my blog, 5,000 parents had filled it out. I knew I had struck a chord.
Dennis: And they said it wasn’t present in their family; right?
Kristen: Wrong! Nine-three percent of the families who took the poll said that it was a huge issue in their homes.
I think, really, the story that sums it up for me—I get to talk a lot with young mothers, through our non-profit, who come and volunteer. One day, it was just one other person and I in our warehouse. This mom was packing orders, and we were just chatting. I was about to leave, and she said that she had four- and two-year-olds, and then she had a new baby—so she has three very young children. Her four-year-old daughter was feeling a little overwhelmed, I think, by having two baby brothers in the house. She pulled her daughter aside, and got down on her one knee and said: “Guess what? Mommy has planned a very special day for the two of us—just the two of us!”
And the little girl said, “What are we going to do?” She said, “We are going to go ice skating, and we’re going to get hot chocolate!” And the little girl’s immediate response was: “Is that all? Is that all we’re going to do!?” [Laughter]
She said her heart broke—that that sums it up—that’s what we’re up against—is that question. We’re raising a generation of kids, who say, “Is that all? Is that all you’re going to get for me? Is that all you’re going to give me?” That’s what we’re fighting against.
Dennis: You list in your book seven reasons why parents indulge their kids. I thought this was a good list just for parents to be aware of; because, frankly, in this culture, I think we have to be really careful, as parents, that we’re not setting our kids up to feel discontented when they become an adult.
Kristen: Right. These are things that I saw in my own life and in my own home. We want our kids to be our friends. You know, it’s very common not to be the authoritarian parent. We want our kids to like us. Too—we are afraid to say, “No,” because of the fallout.
I mean, I have stood at an imaginary battle line in my kitchen, knowing that if I said, “No,” there was going to be fallout! So, it’s easier in a lot of ways.
Bob: Indulgence is often the path of least resistance for a parent: “How big of a battle do I want to have? I’ll just give in.”
Kristen: It’s true!
Dennis: There’s another one that you list, of the seven—in fact, it is number seven. It’s akin to this one about the fallout: “We don’t want our kids to be unhappy.”
Kristen: Oh, yes. That’s a huge one. [Laughter] We don’t want our kids to be unhappy. I think good parenting makes for unhappy kids—temporarily, unhappy children.
Dennis: I think you’re right! If you give your kids everything they want, you’re going to train them to be selfish.
Kristen: Exactly! I think we have this desire to give our kids the world. I mean, you know, we’re handed this little bundle of joy. We work so hard to protect, and provide for them, and give them what they need—that line becomes very fuzzy very quickly.
But when we are giving them everything that they want, we’re actually creating adults who can’t hold down jobs. We’re producing children who struggle to stay in marriages.
Kristen: You know, we’re creating this whole future problem that we can’t even foresee when we give them everything that they want.
Bob: You juxtapose an entitlement mentality with a gratitude mentality. I mean, even in the title of your book, which is Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World, you’re saying that the antidote to entitlement—if there is going to be one thing that you’re going to do to help turn the tide, you’re going to be pointing your kids toward gratitude—being aware of the blessings they have and being appreciative for them. Just explain how gratitude works to defeat entitlement.
Kristen: Well, I think gratitude is the opposite of entitlement—
—I think being thankful for what we have, saying, “Thank you,” and meaning it—finding ways to count our blessings.
You know, when my kids are going through a hard time or they’re having a bad day, one of the first things I tell them to do is: “Okay; yes, I hear the situation that you just said. You are right—it is hard,”—try to validate what they’re saying—but, at the same time: “What can you look at in this situation that is good? What can you be thankful for in this situation?”
Kristen: “Okay; so this teacher is really hard, but what can you be thankful for? There’s tutoring after school,” or “Your dad’s really great at math.”
Bob: —or “There’s only two months left in the semester!” [Laughter]
Kristen: —or “Summer is coming!” But if we look at our lives that way—and we try to find something to be thankful for / we count our blessings—it makes us realize what we have. We live in this culture—we want more all the time.
But when we stop and we look at what we’ve already been given, it’s a lot! And we can count those gifts.
We do little things—practical things—in our house. You know, we do “highs and lows of the day.” While we’re sitting around, eating dinner together, everyone goes around and we all share one “high” and one “low” of the day. We can get that way—we always share the low first so that we can end on the high—because there’s always something in every day to be thankful for, even if it’s a really bad day.
You can keep a gratitude journal—that we then—we write in it, and then at Christmas, we’ll pull that out. We’ll laugh at the things we wrote down six months ago that we were grateful for. There’s always something to be thankful for.
Dennis: I like the proactive approach you’re taking. I have to confess—Barbara and I took more of—on occasion, took more of—a disciplined approach to griping, and complaining, and whining about things. We had what was then, I believe, a dime jar or a quarter jar.
We’d be driving down the road, going on a vacation—and the kids would be whining, and griping, and complaining, and not getting along with one another. We had a jar on the dashboard of the car. We’d just reach in and pull out a quarter. They knew that, at the end of the trip, they got to use whatever was left in the jar to get an ice cream cone, or maybe a hot fudge sundae, or maybe even a banana split; okay?
Dennis: It was interesting to watch what happened when you pulled that quarter out.
Dennis: Things would get really quiet in the backseat. There was even an attorney back there, going: “Now, wait a second! You didn’t really weigh the circumstances of what was happening here,” trying to defend his brothers and sisters because it just cost him four pennies.
Kristen: Right; right.
Dennis: He’s trying to figure out how to save his pennies.
Kristen: But I think one thing that you did that is so valuable is you made your kids aware that they were complaining and grumbling. I think, often, it’s such a normal part of what we do in our verbiage and in our body language.
We’re not getting our way—so we’re whining and complaining, and throwing a fit, and stamping our foot. Adults do that too—it’s just not always on the kitchen floor, pounding their fists.
Dennis: Oh, yes; we do! [Laughter]
Kristen: But one of the things we did that really helped is—we just, one night at dinner, passed out rubber bands to everyone. We all put them on our wrists. Every time we complained or griped, or did the opposite of showing gratitude, we would pop our own rubber band. You weren’t allowed to pop anyone else’s—
Kristen: —because, of course, I have a teenaged son. [Laughter] But you could say, “You need to pop your rubber band. You just complained.” It just made us aware—it made me aware! I mean, when I did this, guess who was the first to complain?
Bob: You were the first popper! Yes.
Kristen: I was the first one to have to pop, and my kids thought that was so funny!—“Oh, what a good lesson, Mom!” But it made me very conscious of “I don’t want to clean up the dishes.” Well, that’s not being very grateful—that’s what I said—and I didn’t want to clean up the dishes. So I popped that rubber band.
I think making our families aware of what we’re saying, and our tone, and how we sound—just create an environment in our homes that’s godly. It is inspiring us to do better and to be grateful for what we have rather than allowing all of that negative talk to go on all of the time.
Dennis: Yes; and I think memorizing a good passage of Scripture—
Dennis: —can also be a good antidote—
Dennis: —to how we are in our flesh. A couple of passages parents might want to jot down to memorize tonight at the dinner table—maybe it’s a husband and a wife who need to memorize these / not the kids—Philippians, Chapter 2, verse 14.
Bob: I knew you were going there!
Dennis: It’s not the whole passage.
Bob: “Do everything—
Dennis: “Do all things—
Dennis: —“without grumbling or disputing.” That’s a great one—that’s a quick one to memorize.
Dennis: And it’s really good to just talk about grumbling, griping, and complaining.
And then, maybe, talk about how the nation of Israel lost their ability to go into the Promised Land because they never got it! They could never really, truly walk by faith and give thanks for their circumstances.
Then the other passage that—this is so convicting! I needed this yesterday—it is
1 Thessalonians, Chapter 5, verses 16, 17, and 18. Listen to this: “Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” I just have to tell you—it is so difficult for me to give thanks. I did have a form of this in a prayer last night over dinner. As I prayed, I quoted James, Chapter 1, verses 2-8:
“Count it all joy, brothers, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.”
You know, there’s something about stating the positive in the midst of the negative that admits God’s there and that you want to walk by faith and not by sight. That’s what you’re trying to train your children to do. They shouldn’t be like the nation of Israel that walked by sight and not by faith.
Kristen: Right; and I think, for our family, we hold firmly to a passage of Scripture that is incredibly important in our family—it’s 1 John 2: 15-17. I love it in The Message translation: “Don’t love the world’s ways. Don’t love the world’s goods. Love of the world squeezes out our love of the Father. Practically everything that goes on in the world—wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important—has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from Him.
“The world and all its wanting, wanting, wanting is on the way out—but whoever does what God wants is set for eternity.”
Bob: That’s good!
Dennis: It really is good.
You mentioned earlier, as parents, we really want to give our kids the world. I thought, “Now, that’s really an interesting play on words.” I think we do! I think, as we take a step back and look at the Scriptures, is that what the Scriptures call us to do, as parents?—to give our kids the world?
Kristen: I think it depends on your emphasis on that. I think our innate nature is to lavish love on our kids. What does our culture see as love?—it’s stuff! I can’t really blame parents for falling into that trap, because it’s so easy to become like the world. But if we’re truly giving them the world, we’re giving them a road to eternity—and that really leaves this world behind.
It’s not tangible, physical stuff—it’s a road to heaven.
Dennis: We were going through a difficult time with one of our teenagers. A friend of ours said to us, “You know, the very challenges your teenager is facing right now may be the needed experience that young person needs to go through to make their faith stronger for some larger issue they’re going to face as an adult.” Keeping your kids from experiencing suffering/unhappiness—it is really not wise in the long haul.
Kristen: No; it’s harmful. I had this big argument with my oldest a few months ago. She said to me, “Why are you so hard on me?” And I wanted to respond with, “Oh, honey, I’m not hard on you,” but I am. I just sat down on the edge of her bed and we had a heart-to-heart.
I said: “Let me tell you why I’m so hard on you. I’m not going to deny it or refute it. I’m going to agree with you, and this is why—because the world won’t be easy on you. You have been called to stand firm, as a believer, in a world that is going the opposite direction. The world isn’t going to be easy. There’s not going to be someone rushing in to fix all of your problems. If you procrastinate, and you don’t get something turned in on time, you’re not necessarily going to have a teacher who is forgiving. When you are late for work, over and over and over, your boss probably isn’t going to say, ‘Well, it’s okay.’ There’s going to be a consequence.
“If I fix everything, and I make everything easy, and I don’t prepare you for your life outside the home, then I have failed you. So yes, I’m tough on you and hard on you now, in grace and love.
“We have a loving home; but, at the same time, when push comes to shove: ‘I’m boss. This is something that you need to do,’ or ‘This is a choice that you need to make,’ or ‘This is how we’re going to live in this house.’ Yes, I’m hard on you; but the reason I’m hard is because I want to prepare you for life.”
Bob: Tell our listeners about what that same daughter came to you recently and said about this year of school for her.
Kristen: Yes; so every school year, we’ve always told our kids, “We’re going to take it one year at a time.” My kids have been in public school since kindergarten, and I thought that’s how we would finish. She’s in marching band—she’s an All-State flute player. She came to me at the beginning of summer and she said: “Mom, I want to focus on my spiritual life as much as I focus on my academic life. I would like you to let me finish high school—my last two years of high school online so that I don’t lose this close place I have right now with the Lord.”
As a parent, I felt like we had both won again.
Bob: Yes; talk about high fives all around; right?
Bob: I mean, I’m imagining being in that room—I would, as a mom / as a dad—
Dennis: There’s no greater compliment to receive—there.
Bob: That’s what you pray for—for your kids—
Kristen: And I think it’s important. We don’t know the path our kids are going to take. There is no guarantee. I think that we have to offer them to God and trust our kids—do our best, trust them, and trust Him that He’s going to lead us.
Dennis: And, Kristen, I want to thank you for your work on your book. I think what you’ve done here is you’ve called out one of the biggest temptations for parents to cave in to their kids in this culture—the issue of indulging them.
You’ve not just helped them name it for what it is, but you’ve put together a game plan for knowing how parents can push back against it and train their children to be content and grow up to be adults who are smiling at the future. Thanks for being on the broadcast, and thanks for your work with moms and with children throughout the world that don’t have much of anything.
Kristen: Thank you.
Bob: And I hope our listeners will, not only get a copy of your book, I hope they’ll go online at FamilyLifeToday.com and click the links we’ve got to your blog and to the work you’re doing with Mercy House. Get the kids around the computer and show them what you guys are doing and how God is working through your ministry. Again, go to FamilyLifeToday.com to find out more about Kristen’s book, and about the work of Mercy House, and all that her family is up to. The website, again, is FamilyLifeToday.com. You can also call to order a copy of the book, Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World, by Kristen Welch.
Call 1-800-FL-TODAY to order. That’s 1-800-358-6329; 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
You know, this conversation about gratitude and entitlement, one of the things that keeps me regularly grateful is reflecting on the fact that FamilyLife Today is listener-supported. The partnership that exists between what we do, here at FamilyLife, and what our listeners do in joining with us to help make all of this happen—it really is a partnership that involves people who care passionately about God’s design for marriage and family. We believe that the family is the bedrock of civilization and that understanding God’s design for marriage and family is at the center of God’s design for humankind. That’s why FamilyLife Today exists—to effectively develop godly marriages and families who change the world, one home at a time.
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And we hope you have a great weekend. I hope you and your family are able to worship together in your local church this weekend. And I hope you can join us back on Monday when we’re going to talk about the essence of biblical womanhood. What is at the heart of being a woman according to God’s design? Bethany Baird and Kristen Clark are going to join us to talk about that. We hope you can be with us as well.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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