Teach your children to be thankful by example and then by arranging home life so they must earn access to the pleasurable extras of life. They must see the link between labor and reward, between things and the cost. Literature abounds with stories of kings or wealthy men placing their sons as servants or as common men in order to prepare them for the high level of responsibility they will eventually inherit. It is well known that the coddled are not as competent in positions of responsibility as are those who worked their way to the top.

If children do not see the connection between what you provide and their consumption, they will not be appreciative. Certain things we take for granted depending on our culture and lifestyle. In America the only child that has ever thanked his parents for his mattress is the one who had to sleep on the floor for a period of time. I am not suggesting you have your children sleep on the floor; just consider the principle. When I stayed in the Maya Indian village in Central America, one of the guys gave his foam mattress to a man and his wife who knew nothing but sleeping on a wooden bench. They were overjoyed with thankfulness. A kid who never gets candy is very thankful for one piece, but a child that is given unhindered access to junk food assumes that it is his right and is never thankful for a gift of candy. In short, overindulged children never learn to be thankful. You will do well if you take care to establish a connection between the things your children receive and the labor required obtaining it.

Remind your children how hard their father works to provide for them. When they are foolish with their things, remind them, “Daddy had to work 12 hours in the hot sun so we could buy this item, so we need to be wise and not waste Daddy’s labor.”

Flea Market Education

We lived far from any shopping center and seldom got out other than to work. But about once a year we traveled three hours to a big flea market. It covered around 100 acres and was just too big to see in one day. I remember the kids saving up for the shopping trip when they were very young.

Every day they would count their money. Each of them had somewhere between $20 and $45. They were excited—all the possibilities! As we got out of the truck, I told them to not buy until they had checked the entire sale and found the best price. They already knew how to dicker for a lower price, having watched Deb and I do it a hundred times. I crossed paths with them from time to time and slowly they filled their totes with their purchases. Late in the day, our money gone and our purchases stowed, we headed home. On the way home they excitedly told their stories of getting a better price or of finding “just what I always wanted.”

But they were soon to learn one of their greatest economic lessons. Just because it was on sale, and just because you got it even cheaper, and just because you always wanted it, doesn’t mean you should have purchased it. Over the coming days as I observed them handling their new purchases and listening to little remarks, I noted they all questioned some if not all of their purchases. I think they enjoyed counting the money every day more than they did the use of the items. Rebekah now had a fancy lead rope for her pony, but the eight dollars was gone forever. Rebekah mentioned that the old piece of dirty rope had worked just as well.

I felt their loss. It was sad to see their regret, but I knew it was a lesson well learned. I wouldn’t have prevented it for anything. After that experience they were all as tight as a knot in barbed wire. When Nanny and Daddy Bill came to visit and brought the kids something they would have bought if they had been less tight with their money, they were highly grateful, expressing their thanks profusely.

Teach your children to be thankful and they will gain favor with man.