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?