Thanksgiving and Entitlement
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 talks about how entitlement showed up in their family, and how she and her husband worked to foster gratitude in their children’s hearts.
Thanksgiving and Entitlement
Bob: That’s right!
Kristen: That is exactly what my husband said.
Dennis: Did he?!
Kristen: He did!
Kristen: He said, “This is going to stop right now, and you’ve lost your boots.” And my child from the back seat, “But what about grace?” [Laughter]
Bob: Oh! [Laughter]
Kristen: I said, “Grace was getting you the boots in the first place!” [Laughter]
Bob: There you go! That’s right; “This is mercy that you’re not getting a spanking in addition!”
Kristen: Exactly! Mercy is taking them away. [Laughter] My husband—I looked at him—I could tell by the tilt of his chin that I better just be quiet and let him have this moment. His tone—he’s more of a quiet guy—so I knew he was very serious.
Kristen: He just said, “That’s it. If you want these boots, you’re going to have to work for them; because what we gave in grace and love has now become something that we’re taking away because of your ungrateful heart. If you want them back—if you don’t want them back, that’s fine—but if you do, it’s going to cost you something.”
Bob: It’s interesting—as you tell that story—I’m thinking of the nation of Israel grumbling in the wilderness. God still gave them manna and quail—
Bob: —and that was what they needed to survive—but there was blessing withheld from the nation because of their grumbling and their disobedience. It’s not inappropriate for us, as parents, to say, “When you have an ungrateful heart—when you do grumble, and whine, and complain—life will not go as well for you as it otherwise would.”
Kristen: Right. That’s exactly—it was really a growing issue—that we just weren’t sure how to deal with other than just the sending them to their room, or writing sentences, or trying/pulling every resource we had from our tool belt. We knew that the siblings had their boots, and they were keeping them.
This was special; this was something that wasn’t going to come along again: “If you want to work for them, then you can have them.” My husband pointed out—we were home at that time—and he put the boots up on the laundry shelf/high in the laundry room, and pointed to the backyard and the front yard. We live in humid, wet Houston.
Kristen: He said, “If you want the boots, you have three days to pull all the weeds in both the front and back yard.” It was spring—we hadn’t really started our yardwork after winter—it was a big job! My heart sank; because I knew that we’re dealing with a strong-willed child here, who would really have to want those boots.
Dennis: You thought you might bow her back at this point—
Kristen: I did!
Dennis: —and not ever get them.
Kristen: That’s sort of the battle ground that you wager with kids, especially strong-willed kids; you know? Giving a choice was also the one, I think, secret weapon we had; because knowing that she could walk away, gave her power.
Dennis: How many years did it take before she earned them? [Laughter]
Kristen: Well, to make matters worse, it was raining that day. She waited a few hours and, as a mom, I was/I was heartbroken for my daughter; you know? I was sad, because it was such a good day.
Kristen: You hate ending a special day that way; but as a parent, I was very proud. It was the day that we called out entitlement in our home. It was the day that we waged war against it. Everything changed from that moment on. When I heard the front door open, and I saw her walk out into the rain, in work clothes, and kneel down and start pulling weeds, I’d felt like we’d/we’d won! It wasn’t a—you know when you win—you also have a loser.
Kristen: But I didn’t feel like my daughter had lost; I feel like she won too.
Dennis: She had learned a valuable lesson.
Kristen: She had learned a valuable lesson, and it took about three days for her to pull all those weeds. It was extreme; it was harsh; but if we paid her by the hour, that’s probably what she would have earned to get those/those boots back. When my husband handed them to her, he said, “We will never take these away from you again, because you earned them.” It was a good lesson.
Dennis: As you look at moms and dads, and young people growing up today, do you think entitlement is a bigger issue today than when Bob and I raised our families? It was affluent back then—they had a lot of options/a lot of choices—we may have not had the electronics that you have today. What are you seeing and hearing from other moms and their families?
Kristen: I do think it’s a bigger problem; it seems to be a bigger problem than even when I was a child. I think technology has a lot to do with it—we can have everything instantaneously—we can download everything we want. We can have the internet in our back pocket; we don’t have to wait and get home, and dial up, and wait to connect. We can watch Netflix® in the car. We can have what we want when we want it.
I think we’ve pacified our kids with technology to the point of making it easy/it is easier for us. There’s no doubt that, as parents, it’s easier to give in than to stand firm. I think, with advances in technology, it has made it more convenient for us to make that choice.
Bob: You said the cowboy boot incident was the day you addressed entitlement in your home. Do you look back on that as a turning point, where you first said, “We’ve got an issue here that we’ve got to dig out at the roots”?
Kristen: Yes; definitely. It was a turning point for our family. I think, up until that point, we thought it was a phase, or a stage, or “This is what all kids experience”; but really, it was something that had a grasp/a grip on our family. We were in a season, where we were travelling a lot overseas, and exposing our kids to other cultures and countries, and the way that other people live. Through that, it just magnified the entitlement. It was like putting a magnifying glass on this/this attitude.
Michelle: Some scary stuff; huh?—Kristen Welch talking about entitlement.
We need to take a quick break; but when we come back, we’re going to find out how deep that entitlement mindset went in their hearts. Stay tuned. We’ll be back in two minutes.
[Radio Station Spot Break]
Michelle: Welcome back to FamilyLife This Week. I'm Michelle Hill. You’ve heard of the name, “Rockefeller”; right? There was a time in history where John D. Rockefeller was one of the richest men in the world. He was asked this question: “How much money do you need?” His answer was: “Just one more dollar.”
We all tend to live that way; don’t we? Well, I don’t want to say all—but a lot of us tend to live that way—“If we just had one more dollar,” “…one more dress,” “…one more pair of shoes,” “…one more set of tools,” “…one more guitar amplifier,”—you get—
Sound Engineer: —not a guitar amplifier. [Laughter]
Michelle: —you get the idea; right?
We’ve been listening to Kristen Welch share her story about her family’s entitlement. That entitlement went deeper than she ever imagined. Here’s Kristen, continuing her story with Dennis Rainey and Bob Lepine.
[Previous FamilyLife Today Broadcast]
Bob: Your travelling in third-world countries that you did—and then, that you’ve done as a family—that does have a way of forcing the reality of all of our entitlement mentalities to the surface. You can’t travel to a place like Kenya, where you’ve done a lot of work, without coming home and going, “We take a ton for granted!”
Kristen: Right; and I think what—when I look back on that day—it wasn’t just my kid’s entitlement that I saw; it was my own.
Dennis: Yes; in fact, I want you to comment on something there. It was when you and your husband named it and started calling it what it was—not only with your kids, but between you two—that it really was transformational in your marriage and family.
Kristen: Yes, it was something that I was struggling with; and it had started early in my marriage that I saw that I was struggling with entitlement. Probably one of the first times that I noticed it was an issue for me was our/one of our first Christmases together. We didn’t have a lot of money for gifts for each other, but we allotted a small amount of money and decided to buy each other gifts with that amount of money.
I took that $100 bill and I bought as many gifts as I could for my husband. I bought him an old Risk® game off of e-bay—he loved to play Risk, but it was like an antique Risk game—just little things that he loved. I got as many gifts—again, this is how I’m processing like—
Bob: So you had a collection; you had seven, eight, nine gifts; right?
Kristen: Yes; on Christmas morning, we were with his family. Everyone’s taking turns opening gifts.
Bob: I see where this is going.
Kristen: No one is bringing me any gifts. As everyone’s taking turns—and I’m a/that’s my love language—I love gifts. He’s opening nine or ten gifts, and we have gifts for his family. The adults weren’t exchanging gifts; so literally, I had nothing in my pile. He walks over—after everything is done—he walks over to the Christmas tree and pulls an ornament off the tree. Inside the ornament it’s a pearl necklace. I said, “Thank you”; and then I went to the bathroom, and I cried; because it wasn’t enough.
Bob: Come on!—a pearl necklace?!
Kristen: I know; I know. He probably shopped a great sale and used coupons; but I think I equated love and gifts with stuff—and a lot of stuff—not necessarily one meaningful gift. It was very immature, and I was very young.
That was really—up until around the time of the boot story—my next-door neighbor called me over to her house. This is maybe 15 years later that this has been growing in me; 15 years later, my next-door neighbor called me over to come show me her new wood floors. This is someone who was probably 20 years older than me at the time. They had paid for their house; they had lived in the same house all of these years.
We open the front door to her house, and her kitchen remodel was gorgeous: new appliances, new backsplash, the countertops and her floors were glorious! I just walked around, my mouth open, and loved every bit of it. I walked—
Bob: —and then you went back to your house. [Laughter]
Kristen: —open my front door. This is what I said to my husband: “We need to redo our floors. While we’re at it, our kitchen needs some work too.”
Dennis: —“new appliances…”
Kristen: —“new appliances…”
Bob: Can I tell you: “This never stops”? We had this conversation, this week, at our house, where Mary Ann had—
Dennis: Well, you had some early ones in your marriage, too, Bob.
Bob: We’ve been through this! I mean, this is a cycle that you get in; you do have to keep reminding yourself of what’s true. Mary Ann had just come back from a friend’s house, where a remodel had been done. She calls me over and says, “Look at here/at our baseboards, where this doesn’t….” and “…this…” and “...this is always...” I go, “We’re here again; aren’t we?” Then she said to herself, “And there are people, who would love to live in a house like our house.”
You juxtapose an entitlement mentality with a gratitude mentality. Just explain how gratitude works to defeat entitlement.
Kristen: 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.
When my kids are going through a hard time, or they’re having a bad day, or they’re feeling discouraged, one of the first things I tell them to do is: “Okay; yes, I hear the situation that you’ve just said. You’re right; it’s 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?” “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.” [Laughter]
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 do little things/practical things in our house: we do high’s and low’s of our 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 we can 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 Thanksgiving or 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.
Bob: I keep thinking of Philippians 4. Paul, who had been in prison as well as having lived in nice places, said [paraphrase]: “I’ve learned that contentment doesn’t come from what bed you’re sleeping on at night or what you had to eat for dinner last night. Contentment comes from knowing who God is and from having your value, your worth, your strength—all of that—found in Him.” That’s a great section of Scripture—not just to help your kids memorize—
Bob: —the secret of being content is something we all have to learn.
Dennis: Yes; I just want to ask you about the secret of being content. If you had one piece of advice—for a mom, dad, grandparent listening right now to our broadcast; maybe it’s a single person or a young married couple, who’s listening, who are struggling with this in their apartment/where they’re living—what is the best piece of advice you could give?
Bob: I’ve got it—it’s: “Turn the car around and take the boots back—[Laughter]
Bob: [with emphasis]—“until you get your attitude right, young man!”
Kristen: Yes; that does work! [Laughter]
Dennis: That does work! Or “Go pull out all the weeds.”
Bob: That’s right.
Dennis: That works!
Kristen: I think—I don’t know if you can narrow it down to one key—but for us/for my family, it’s been the word, “perspective.” We don’t have to teach our kids how to compare themselves to other people—we don’t have to teach ourselves how to compare ourselves—we do that naturally. We are very good at seeing what other people have and wanting what they have. It’s the tenth commandment: not to covet what our neighbor has. We are excellent at that [coveting], but what we’re not so great at is comparing ourselves to people with less. When we do that, we put ourselves in the middle—and we can see: “Okay, this person has more; but this person has less,”—and we find ourselves in the middle. Perspective is really the birthplace of gratitude, because it makes us thankful for what we have.
My kids were serving with their church youth group. They were helping to rebuild a house in Texas from all the flooding that we just encountered. They were ripping out sheet rock, and they were pulling up rotten floors. I got a text from my 16-year-old daughter. I picked up my phone, just making sure that they were okay; because it’s always sort of scary, sending your kids off to do these things.
Her text stopped me in my tracks—it said: “Mom, did you know there are people in our town, who don’t have floors?”—this is a kid who, it’s easy for her to compare herself to people with more. It’s easy for our culture of kids to compare—you know: “So-and-so has the latest iPhone®,” or “…the most advanced Xbox®,” or whatever it is—and they feel like they have less. But when she saw that someone didn’t have floors, when she came home that day, she lay down on the floor; and she was like, “I’m so glad we have floors!” It was just perspective: it was reminding her that there was always going to be someone with more, but there’s always someone with less.
I think that’s the key; we have to break out of our bubbles. I love my family; I love my kids; I try my best to be an intentional parent. I spent the first ten years doing everything I could to raise a godly family, but I didn’t do it very often outside of my four walls—I didn’t focus on others; I didn’t give my kids opportunities to see how other people live—I think I did them a disservice.
For us, the key has been throwing open those doors, raising the windows, getting to know our neighbors and finding places to serve and to give to others. That has brought perspective like nothing else has.
Michelle: Kristen Welch with an incredible life-changing story about entitlement and how they went from the entitlement mentality to: “How do we look around and see the world outside of our home?” and “How do we reach out to our neighbors?” “How do we give?” “How do we be charitable?” “How do we be kind?”
It’s Thanksgiving week, or we’re looking towards Thanksgiving. I challenge you to be thanking about that, too: be looking for where you can be giving—not just of your time, not just of your finances—but maybe of your stuff. Maybe look around, and until Christmas day, give away one item a day or one item a week. Also, have that conversation with your spouse about what Christmas will look like—what really needs to be on the Christmas list—and what might be too much that continues to entitle our children. Just something to think about on this weekend.
Hey, I want to thank the president of FamilyLife®, David Robbins; our founder, Dennis Rainey; along with our station partners around the country. A big “Thank you!” to our engineer today, Keith Lynch. Thanks to our producers, Marques Holt and Bruce Goff. Justin Adams is our mastering engineer, and Megan Martin is our production coordinator, all of which do not have problems with stuff or entitlement.
Sound Engineer: Haahh! [Laughter]
Michelle: Our program is a production of FamilyLife Today, and our mission is to effectively develop godly families who change the world one home at a time.
I'm Michelle Hill, inviting you to join us again next time for another edition of FamilyLife This Week.
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