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No Thanks!

How do I deal with my son's ungrateful attitude?

Recently I spent an entire day treating my six-year-old son to a trip to the museum, the park, and the ice-cream shop. When we stopped to purchase a Christmas present for my nephew, my son demanded I buy him a new toy too. When I refused, he threw a tantrum! After all I did for him, I got complaints. How do I teach him to be more grateful?

I don't have an easy answer to this question. When I was young, my parents would answer my whining with, "I'm sorry, honey, but we just can't afford it." I knew that was true and a temper tantrum wouldn't change anything. These days many families can afford little luxuries. Our children see us buying wants instead of needs, and they want a piece of the pie. Our kids get so much, they begin to expect it. Then the one time we don't give something to them, they get angry because they feel it's their right to have it.

In the long run, it may be more loving to tell your child "no" even when it's within your power to say "yes." Here's a silly, personal example. When I had toddlers, we rarely bought Happy Meals, but not because we were health-conscious or because we didn't want to be caught in the drive-thru lane. Instead, I bought them each a hamburger, and they split an order of fries and a soft drink. It was plenty for my toddlers, and they didn't complain. So on the special occasions when they did get the "whole enchilada," complete with toy (at the fast-food Mexican restaurants, of course!), they were extremely grateful. Their gratitude was an automatic response to getting something they didn't expect.

It's difficult to say "no" to our children when we love them so much and enjoy pleasing them. But stick to your guns. Sometimes "no" is the more loving response than "yes."

Too Young to Confess?

When my three-year-old daughter disobeys me, I encourage her to pray with me to ask Jesus for forgiveness. When we're done, the incident's over and forgotten. But my mother thinks this is harsh and that my daughter has no idea what she's doing. Have I started this spiritual step too early?

My goodness, what in the world is harsh about the gift of forgiveness? I'm all for honoring your parents, even as adults, but in this case my advice is to respectfully ignore your mother.

1 John 1:9 says, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." What—no begging? No pleading? No groveling? That doesn't make sense!

Welcome to the Bible. God's Word is deep, mysterious, and often hard to explain. Consider the following examples: "Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant" (Matthew 20:26); "He should become a 'fool' so that he may become wise" (1 Corinthians 3:18); "For when I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Corinthians 12:10b). If you think only a child would fall for that kind of logic, you're right. Jesus thought so, too. That's why he told his disciples, "Unless you … become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 18:3). If I remember correctly, three-year-olds are very childlike. It doesn't sound like you're starting this spiritual step a moment too soon!

In the world's eyes, it seems as though God runs an upside-down kingdom. But that's how God operates. And if we can teach our children God's topsy-turvy principles while they're young, they'll stand a better chance of realizing it's really the world that's backward.

Youth group no-show?

We go to a church with a thriving youth ministry. My son's been involved in the past, but now that he's in high school, he says he doesn't want to attend youth group anymore. Should we force him, or will that only drive him further from church?

Wow! I had this same conversation two weeks ago with my friend, Mike, a youth pastor. We were talking about my son, Tucker, who just entered high school. Mike warned me, "Don't be surprised if Tucker suddenly says he doesn't want to be involved in the youth ministry anymore. I've seen it time and time again; a student graduates to the high-school youth group and he feels like he's starting all over again—and it's hard!"

Before I could ask him the obvious question, "Should I make him go?" he answered for me, "You've got to take him anyway. Simply explain that not going to youth group is not an option in your family."

By the way, he said another thing I think may help you: that over the many years he's been a youth pastor, he's noticed that church summer camps seem to make the most spiritual impact in a teen's life. He also encouraged me to provide opportunities for Tucker to go on short-term missions trips throughout his high-school years. He said it's rare a young person's life isn't changed dramatically by serving others and seeing how the rest of the world lives. These experiences put the childishness of teenage rebellion into perspective.

Lisa Whelchel is the author of Creative Correction and the mother of three. Visit her website at www.lisawhelchel.com.

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

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