We have seen the footage and read the reports of “Occupy Wall Street.” Disturbingly, we’ve heard about the illegal occupation of city parks, offensive speech, drug use, promiscuity, rape, destruction of property, and illegal drug use. They are protesting a supposed injustice, but their actions have moved well beyond a peaceful protest. In their actions, we observe the manifestation of a generation that stubbornly refuses to go home, get a job, and make the world a better place. They refuse to move until their demands are met, showing little regard for authority and the law.
This reminds me of a group of people who disapproved of their lifestyle circumstances. They were eating nutritious food they did not have to pay for or harvest themselves; they only had to go outdoors and pick it up in the morning. They complained about not having meat to eat, so God dropped edible fowls on their front door. That nation of people received freedom from slavery, absolute protection from enemies, free food, and a guide more reliable than any GPS device. Yet they ignored their blessings and murmured until God opened the earth and destroyed them in an act of divine wrath.
How do we keep our children from becoming people with an unthankful spirit, a hyper-sense of entitlement, and a lazy work ethic? It begins by teaching that responsibility=privileges, and irresponsibility=poverty. Even if the responsibility is as simple as taking out the trash, the fun doesn’t begin until the responsibilities have been completed. Watching TV, playing video games, facebooking, and other forms of entertainment are just that – entertainment. Why should a child be given new toys when she refuses to complete her homework? Why should a student be permitted to borrow the car when he fails to obey the traffic laws? When he wants a snack, we should ask, “Did you eat your supper?”
If we’re not careful, our children will fail to distinguish rights from privileges. An attitude of entitlement will develop, and that creates an unthankful, lazy attitude. Consequently, children will become so accustomed to a privileged life they don’t enjoy privileges anymore. We all want to “treat” our kids from time to time. It’s a natural way to show our kids that we love them. But we must ask ourselves, “Do they realize this is a treat?” Telling them it’s a treat doesn’t make them realize it’s a treat; they’ll only realize that mom and dad think it’s a treat. Children value privileges if their conduct earns them privileges.
The best way to keep our children from becoming occupiers one day is to keep them from “occupying” our homes now. Family members of all ages can and should contribute to the home. At the least, their contribution should be modeling good behavior. If we will teach responsibility, then our kids will more likely become leaders than occupiers.