Kristen Welch and I are sorta, kinda, soul sisters? As I serve on the board of directors of the ministry Kristen founded, Mercy House Kenya, I get to see it first hand again and again — Kristen, one knock-it-outta-the-park, best-selling author, will inspire and empower you to say yes to God right where you are— and choose gratitude at home and see how it changes everything. I absolutely love this woman with all my heart — a grace to welcome my soul sister, Kristen, to the farm’s front porch today…
Every spring we go to the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.
It’s not only a big deal around these parts; it’s the biggest indoor rodeo in the United States.
A couple of years ago, we decided it was high time our three growing kids got their first pair of cowboy boots. You might call it a rite of passage for children in Texas.
We budgeted for the rodeo even more than usual, planning to purchase boots there because we knew there would be plenty to choose from as well as special deals that would save us money.
On the hour trip downtown, one of my kids complained about the seat arrangements in the van, the heat, and the very air siblings dared to breathe.
I corrected said child, and I was half tempted to squash the dream of boots, leaving this one scuffling along in tennis shoes, but after a quick apology was received, grace won out.
We headed straight to the Justin Boots booth and helped all three of our kids try on and choose boots that (1) they loved and (2) we could afford—which was a feat in and of itself because my kids can be picky and boots are expensive.
But we accomplished our goal in under an hour and spent the rest of the day in new boots—looking at animals, watching roping events, and eating large amounts of food that probably shouldn’t be fried. (I’m looking at you, bacon and Oreos.)
On the way home, the same child’s bad attitude surfaced again, this time about not getting to do something at the rodeo.
It wasn’t just whining, the result of a tiring day; it was ingratitude and entitlement. Complaints and warnings fired in rapid succession between the backseat and the front. The day had been a splurge from the beginning, but it wasn’t appreciated.
But mostly, it wasn’t enough. Even after grace put a nice pair of boots on the kid’s feet.
Halfway home, in the middle of the tense ride with an unrepentant boot wearer in the backseat, my husband said, “That’s it. When we get home, I want you to pack your boots back in the box. I’ll see if we can’t return them.”
This nearly broke my Texas heart, but I knew it was the right thing to do.
It saddened me to hear the tears, the begging, the promises. Then the question, “Why can’t you show me grace?”
“Buying you the boots in the first place was grace,” I said.
Once we were home, we put the boxed boots on a high shelf and said, “If you want the boots, you’ll have to work for them.”
He pointed to the huge mulched areas in the front and back yards. “You have three days to pull every weed. I won’t remind you; it’s up to you. This job will pay for your boots. This time you’re going to earn them.”
And that was that.
The rodeo happens in early March, usually before we have a chance to clean up winter’s effect on our yard. My gaze followed my husband’s pointing finger to the weedy mulch beds, and my heart sank. It was going to be a lot of work. Lo, the weeds were many.
My husband is kind and loving and a lot nicer than I am most days.
But I could tell by the firmness in his voice and the tilt of his chin that he was serious.
This was serious.
The mounting ingratitude that had been an issue for weeks had to be addressed. I wanted to high-five him and sob at the same time.
I wondered what our child would choose.
My heart soared a little while later when I heard the front door click. I looked out the window and saw my kid wearing old clothes, bent down in the wet mulch. It had started to rain.
For the next two days, I watched from that window. A little proud, a little brokenhearted, but with every pulled weed, I knew the hard work was making for a softer heart.
When we handed back the boots after hearing a meaningful apology, I knew we had all won. “You earned these,” he said. “I won’t take them away again.”
The boots meant twice as much.
It will go down as the infamous boot story.
It was the day we generously bought our kids cowboy boots. It was the same day we took them away.
It definitely wasn’t the first day my kids acted unthankful—and there have been many times since.
But it was a day we called out entitlement in our home and waged war against it. It was the day we reestablished the fact that we wanted to raise grateful kids more than anything else.
Here are some things we are doing to try and live counter-culturally:
- We Are Asking for Hard Work– I think many kids in our culture (my own included) don’t know much about hard work. A few weeks ago, we spent most of the day in the yard. And the more my kids complained, the more I realized how much we had neglected giving them hard, dirty work. We are changing that. (Phil 2:14-15)
- We Are Sticking to Consequences-If we suggest a consequence, we commit to seeing it through as often as we can. I’ve come up with some stupid consequences in my day and have regretted my rash tongue. But something clicks in our kid when they understand we are serious about some things.
- We Are Limiting Media-Media specifically targets our children to want a lot of stuff they don’t need. We have a TV and computers and devices, but besides filtering them, we turn them off. My kids still complain about it, which reinforces exactly why it’s important.
- We Are Exposing Them to the World– When you’re only looking and thinking about yourself, you can only see what you want. But when you remove the blinders and see needs around you and in the world, it alters your perspective. Exposing our kids to other cultures and how most of the world really lives, stirs up gratitude like nothing else.
- We Are Extending Grace and Leading by Example-Living by a bunch of strict rules and do’s and don’ts isn’t the answer. Being flexible with your own rules is not only necessary, it’s healthy for your family. When I compare and complain, I’m leading by example. When I am thankful and gracious, they are watching. It’s important to admit when we are wrong and ask for forgiveness when we hurt our kids.
- We Are Raising them to Be Different– I Peter 2:11 Our society has low expectations of kids. We expect toddlers to get what they want and teens to be rebellious. Instead of helping our kids fit in every area of their lives, we are encouraging them to go against the flow, reminding them we’re supposed to be different than the world.
- We Are Relying on God- Parenting is a hard job. And honestly, there are so many days, we don’t know what to do. Our kids belong to God. He loves them more than we do. He wants to guide us down the hard roads.
Our family certainly didn’t need new boots, even though we plan to wear them for years to come.
But walking a mile in them taught us a great lesson in gratitude.
Some days we feel like we’ve lost the battle against entitlement in our home; we are still in the trenches, trying to figure this all out.
But as we reflect on Jesus’ sacrifice and turn our attention to the Cross —
it’s thankfulness for His sacrifice and grace that I want them to grasp the most.
Kristen Welch blogs at wearethatfamily.com where she shares parenting, marriage and inspirational encouragement. Her family founded Mercy House, a non-profit that empowers impoverished and oppressed women around the world. Kristen is an author and her newest book Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World releases this month.
It’s never too late to raise grateful kids. Get ready to cultivate a spirit of genuine appreciation and create a Jesus-centered home in which your kids don’t just say―but mean!―“thank you” for everything they have. Who doesn’t want this? Who doesn’t need more help with exactly this? This is a needed, practical book to reset the whole family. It’s like a gift to your whole family: cultivating an atmosphere of genuine appreciation under your roof. Absolutely do not miss this book. On the end table here and highly recommended.