Parents instill appetites in their children. We know it’s generally true with foods.
I didn’t grow up eating:
- Russian goulash
- Thai peanut chicken over a bed of sprouts & star fruit for dessert
- Ethiopian injera
I did grow up eating:
Even as an adult, while I might occasionally try something new, or discover new things I enjoy, my preferences naturally tend toward the 2nd list.
The same is true with the appetites we develop in life in general.
Because my parents bought me more books than electronics, the same is true in my home as an adult. Bookshelves abound; electronics are limited. Because discipleship, active service in the Body of Christ, and genuine relationship with God was always a priority for my parents, no matter the weather or sports schedule or season of life, my brother and I are committed to the same dynamic in our homes.
It doesn’t always hold true, obviously. Some people raised by true disciples of Christ go astray. Some children raised without video games become gaming addicts.
- parents that value reading and education raise children who value learning.
- parents that frequent drive-thrus & regularly purchase junk food raise children who struggle more with with maintaining a healthy weight
- parents that graduated from college have children who are more likely to attend college
Doug and I read a book several years ago that helped us to think about this idea of appetites in a more purposeful way (Preparing Sons to Provide for a Single-Income Family). Like any book, there are things we liked about it and things that aren’t exactly on-point for our family.
But one thing we LOVED about it is that it challenged us deeply with this BIG-PICTURE question:
WHAT APPETITES ARE YOU GIVING YOUR CHILD?
The authors made the point that you shouldn’t be surprised to find that a teen who plays video games daily, for hours on end, struggles with laziness and zoning out when he becomes a dad. The guy is the same guy. His appetites have been built toward a particular AIM, and he is living out that aim.
The goal is not just to identify the appetites our children are developing, but to work to cut out appetites that will ultimately not serve them well in life.
- A theme of selfishness with happiness and lack of boredom as the highest aims will harm your son, whether he gets married and has kids, or not.
- A bent toward laziness and self-pampering will hurt your daughter whether she has a career or a large family.
- A fixation on material possessions will harm his/her bank account, relationships, and walk with God for all of his/her life.
So for Doug & I, an overarching BIG-PICTURE THEME that we regularly look at with each of our children individually, and all of our children as a group, is:
WHAT APPETITES ARE WE INSTILLING?
I would say, at least every few months, we are having conversations about what appetites we see forming in our kids’ hearts. Because the truth is this:
Appetites formed in our home will influence our children for their whole lives.
Here are some appetites that are common pitfalls, even in Christian homes:
- Constant entertainment (TV, movies, activities… never a dull moment)
- Toys, electronics, & devices (having to have “the latest thing”)
- Sports: playing, watching, practicing, discussing, training
- Home decor/perfection in environment
- Video gaming
- A fixation on a particular character/TV series/movie
- Adventure-like experiences (always searching for the next “high”)
- An inordinate craving for privacy/solitude
- Boyfriend/girlfriend (attention from the opposite sex)
- Sweets & junk food
- Eating out
- Or, on the flip side: PERFECTION in eating (organic this year, “whole foods” the next, cutting entire groups of food, etc.)
An unhealthy appetite developed for any one of these things could harm or even ruin your children’s lives– financially, relationally, health-wise… so it’s worth looking carefully at these things.
For our family, the ones we’ve had to watch are:
- “MINE!” An attitude of selfishness with possessions.
- An unhealthy fixation on some new thing (the thing has varied over the years, but some have been: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Legos, Nintendo DS, Transformers videos, Lord of the Rings)
- “Rights”— the “right” to watch a movie during the little one’s naptimes, the “right” to jump on the trampoline all morning (even though it’s time to start back to our school year routine), the “right” to play DS for 30 minutes/day
Whenever we see unhealthy attitudes cropping up because of appetites, we scale back (often taking away the thing altogether for a long amount of time, to break the habit/fixation) and work to nip the appetite in the bud.
So. IN THE COMMENTS, I have two simple questions for you today:
- WHAT UNHEALTHY APPETITES DO YOU SEE FORMING IN YOUR CHILDREN?, and
- WHAT CAN YOU DO, TODAY, TO BEGIN PURPOSEFULLY COMBATING THOSE APPETITES?
20 thoughts on “Why Your Kids’ Appetites Matter”
Ah yes. The “right” to watch a video or eat their candy, etc. We’ve also had to work at limiting those things.
For a while we had an old Xbox and a few racing or Lego games that the kids would play for 30 min/day, but it became such an aggravation when they didn’t want to stop at 30 minutes or got so upset when they couldn’t beat the game. We took it away for a few months, but even after reintroducing it, there was still a problem for one son. At that point, we decided no more games during the week. Saturday mornings for 30 min/kid. It didn’t hurt any when the Xbox broke and we had to toss it…ha!
They still do their 30 minutes on Saturday morning on an ipad, but it’s no longer such an issue. I can also see a lot of growth in the son that struggled, and it doesn’t seem to dominate him so much anymore…praise God! Now, the daughter who is obsessed with her candy…still working on that one!!
We just recently listened to an episode of the Brinkman Adventures (1st episode, I think) where the kids were each given $7000 from an insurance settlement to spend as they pleased. I was thankful to see my kids recognize that the child who gave all of his money to the church ended up being the most thankful and joyful.
GREAT examples. It’s been our experience, too, that once it’s stripped away, but then reintroduced in a limited fashion, the dominating effect is often greatly diminished.
For some kids, like you point out, it could continue to be a struggle… those are where discernment and careful attention can be so helpful. We want to help our children to be able to say, like Paul in 1 Corinthians 10: “All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up.”, and in 1 Corinthians 6: “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.”
Ultimately, as they grow, they should be able to self-discipline in this way, and recognize what things are not profitable, mastering them, not helpful, and not building up. But it all begins with us watching these things for them when they are not yet mature enough to do it for themselves. When they are clearly “mastered” by something, we are privileged to be able to notice and help our children to no longer be mastered by the thing that would ravage their life, mind, and heart.
Thanks for your comment, Christy! (And I have several that can be “mastered” by candy when those candy holidays come around… it’s something we have to watch here too.)
I had heard something similar from a mom (even years before I had kids) – she used to play classical music for her kids and make them read “classical” literature even though it wasn’t there thing. When asked why, said something along the lines of “I’m not trying to cater to their tastes; I’m trying to develop them.”
I thought it was a pretty sobering thought and it’s stuck with me, even though I didn’t have children at the time (nor was married). I think about it often as I make decisions for our 2 (going on 3) boys even though the eldest is only 2.5.
arg! “even though it wasn’t THEIR thing” not “there thing”.
Haha! Oh aren’t typos the worst?! Especially when you’re a writer, it just flat out STINGS. 🙂
Great thoughts! I love it… like developing your kids’ physical appetites for water by not giving juice before a certain age.
This is so good. I’ve seen our kids develop an appetite to sing hymns and learn from church rather than expect to be entertained.
From my own experience, I was raised in a non-Christian home where certain things were clearly valued highly. My grandmother was a dancer, and physical beauty (and in particular remaining slim) were very important things. People were clearly judged by appearances, and as a teenager the comments (fat=lazy, bad, selfish; thin= self-controlled, virtuous, admirable) had a lasting impact. There were many other unhealthy behaviours in that family (I was removed from that home aged 15 due to abuse, and my mother committed suicide not long after that), but I struggled with eating disorders right through from when I was twelve until probably my late 20s. Comments and remarks made in passing stuck with me and I can still hear certain voices. Attitudes were often communicated even without words.
(I should say that through the grace of God, these things rarely affect me now. Being a mother, and seeing the value of life and strength so I can be a mother to my children makes me realise what a body is for. And I have a strong identity in Christ and know His overwhelming grace. Yes, it might remain an area of vulnerability, but healing is possible)
The relevance of this is that none of this was intentional. I don’t think anybody set out to give a teenage girl anorexia and long lasting physical and psychological problems. But we communicate in many ways, through not only our words, but our choices, our priorities, the passing remarks we make, the things we invest time and money in. And so I am aware that we must take care in these subtleties. ‘Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks’ and if our hearts are right, our desires, our focus, our casual conversation should flow in a godward direction. I am also aware how a passing comment or a few words spoken thoughtlessly or in anger can have a terrible effect on a vulnerable child, and often pray that if my husband or I do slip in this way, that our children will not be harmed.
Great contrasting thoughts!
Such a great post. It is so important that we are intentional about everything in our lives because it all has an influence on our kids. Thanks for the great reminder and specific ideas of things to think about. I’m sharing on my Facebook page!