Does your teen frequently complain?  Does your teen compare his or her life to the lives of peers and come up short? In short, does your teen lack contentment?

Parents Need to Cultivate Contentment

As parents, we want our children to be happy.  We give our teens and tweens gifts and take them on adventures because it brings us joy to see them happy.  And, many parents say they want life to be easier for their teens than it was for them.

But then our teens are no longer happy with their current gift because there is a newer, better version.  And, their trips to the mountains of Georgia are not nearly as exciting as their friends’ trips to Colorado, Switzerland, and beyond.  And, our adolescents begin to complain again.

It is hard to be around people who are never satisfied.

What is a parent to do?  To continue giving them bigger presents and taking them on more fantastic trips seems to be the “easier” road. But, is it really?

Parents, we need to take steps to help our teens and teens cultivate contentment!  There will always be people in better and worse circumstances than us.  It is destructive when our eyes focus only on ourselves.  

And, we may need to begin by looking in the proverbial mirror.  After all, we are the biggest examples of a contented heart to our children!

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Cultivate Contentment in Teens

What is Contentment?

Dave Ramsey calls contentment a “heart issue.”  In *Smart Money, Smart Kids, he says, “It’s an attitude of peace and joy where you are, even while you are working to be somewhere else.”

I love this definition!  It allows for a growth mindset.  As parents, we can model for our teens that we can be content where we are, and still have goals. We can do something to work towards those goals!  And, achieving goals leads to even more contentment.

We can model for our teens that we can be content where we are, and still have goals. Click To Tweet

What does a Lack of Contentment Look Like?

  • Complaining
  • Comparison
  • Envy/Jealousy
  • Anxiety
  • Negativity
  • Shallowness

We have a lack of contentment when we focus on the “poor, pitiful me” concept.  It is easier to complain than to look for the good in the world, or even work towards change in our world.

“Self-pity is our worst enemy, and if we yield to it, we can never do anything wise in this world.”  – Helen Keller

How do We Prevent Discontentment?

Two words:  we can’t.

Parents, there is hope!  We can and should guide our children in dealing with discontentment.  It is easier to ignore the attitude and hope it gets better.

But the truth is, discontentment will only get worse if it is not dealt with.  And, complaining and negative adolescents make everyone miserable.  This will take effort and energy.  But, your hard work will result in teenagers who are a joy to be around!

6 Tips for Guiding Adolescents Towards Contentment

  1. Eliminate discontentment in our own lives.

We are our adolescents’ most powerful teachers!  Ask,

  • “What am I doing to instill discontentment in my teen or tween?”
  • “What am I doing to instill contentment?”

Notice areas in your life where you are discontent.  Allow your children to hear you say that you want to make changes.  Then, allow them to see you attempt to make those changes.  The Man and I find it helpful to share aloud how we capture our thoughts and turn them around.

Use some of the following tips for guidance.

2.  Encourage them to be people observers.

Discuss with your teen:

  • What does it look like when someone acts shallow or gets his value from the things he owns?
  • Would you rather be around a complainer or someone who is happy with what they have or are striving to do?
  • What does it look like when someone is full of gratitude?

Our girls were gifted with the opportunity to swim with dolphins.  As a bonus, they were able to each invite a friend.  These friends were so sweet and grateful that The Man and I enjoyed spending the entire day with them.

One girl even told our server at dinner that she had the best day ever because she swam with dolphins!  The other girl actually wrote a thank you note to the gift giver.  Now, we are more than happy when our daughters want to invite either of these girls to do things with them!

3.  Teach your teen to monitor her words.

 Resist the temptation to blame or play the victim.  Ask her (and possibly yourself),

  • “How can I be the best person I can be with the resources I have?”
  • “How can I change my situation?”

In our family, we changed our words from “We can’t afford it” to “It’s not in the budget” to “That is not a priority.”  The truth is, we probably can afford most requests.  And, the budget helps us prioritize where our money is going.  If something were a true priority, also known as an “emergency,” we have an emergency fund in place.

Resist the temptation of a sale or great deal.

It is difficult to resist the email or ad for a super sale or great deal on something that we really want, but is not a priority.  We learned that

  • “There will always be great deals, especially if you wait for a holiday.”
  • “There will be an upgrade to this upgrade.”  This enabled us to be content until it was truly time to replace something electronic.

4.  Teach your adolescent self-regulation.

Parents, this may be the hardest step after modeling contentment and self-regulation ourselves!

Direct thoughts towards the positive. 

The Bible directs us in Philippians 4:8,  “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is  lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.”

Help your teen recognize the negative words, focus on putting a positive spin on them, and choose to be happy.

One of the kindest people I know does this in her self talk.  Rather than complain about her body, she says, “My legs are strong!  They enable me to run and climb trees.”  It is much easier to be content when we see the good in our situation.

Remove the causes of discontentment. 

Once your adolescent recognizes the negative thoughts, guide him to see the source of discontentment.  Is it

  • Social media?
  • Television shows?
  • Certain friends?

Together, brainstorm ways to avoid these negative influences.  Should your teen

  • limit them?
  • avoid them for a certain period of time?
  • remove them completely?

Find a safe place to renew.

When our teens are dragged down by negativity and discontentment, they need a safe place to go that will help them feel better.  Maybe, it is

  • A walk in nature.
  • Reading a book in bed.
  • A mental image:  Teach your teen to relive their favorite moments in their minds, or picture a calming place, such as a beach.

5.  Contribute to the world by making a positive difference in the lives of others.

Making a difference enables a teen to take the focus off himself and have empathy for the needs of others.  Sometimes perceived “wants” pale in comparison to meeting these needs.

I love what Rachel Cruze says in *Smart Money, Smart Kids, “It is almost impossible for selfishness to flourish in the heart of a giver.  With every act of giving, your child is taking a stand against discontentment.  It’s like he’s saying, ‘I not only have enough for me, but I have enough to share with you.’”

And parents, let’s be real. We must be courageous in this step!  All the “what ifs” cycle through our minds when we take our children to places of poverty and desperation.  The Man and I find it helpful to go through trusted organizations with a group, and to truly rely on prayer.  Even in America, many places are safe enough, but not without risk.

Our experience has been that our daughters discovered that they have more in common with the people they serve than not.  After overcoming the initial awkwardness, we often see younger kids playing games, holding hands, and sitting on our girls’ laps.  Even connected relationships are a “need.”

6.  Cultivate gratitude.

A heart filled with gratitude leaves little room for discontent when the mind is focused on all that we already have.

Play the Pollyanna “Glad Game.”

I recommend this game with some reservations because certain adolescents will not appreciate it!  Basically, look for a reason to be glad no matter what happens.  Make it a silly game or even a joke if necessary!

When stuck in a traffic jam on a Florida highway, we might start joking,

  • ”I’m glad that I don’t have to go to the bathroom right now.”
  • “I’m glad for air conditioned seats.”
  • “I’m glad for hilarious people in the cars next to us.”

Start a family gratitude journal. 

Each morning, each family member writes one thing for which he or she is grateful.  Sometimes it is silly and sometimes it is serious.  The point is to set our heart right for the start of our days!

At first, we listed big things – family, friends, home, food, etc.  But, we quickly ran out of ideas.

We learned to be grateful for the smaller things like the burst of a frozen blueberry on our tongues.  And, when we enjoy a frozen, bursting blueberry, we are not grumbling about the lack of quality, fresh blueberries!

Final Thoughts

As Christ followers, the Bible sums it up in 1 Timothy 6:6, “But godliness with contentment is great gain.”

Parents, your child has so much to gain from your strong example and guidance in the area of contentment.  How do you encourage contentment in your adolescents?

For more information on cultivating contentment, consider reading the following books.  Thank you for supporting this site by clicking on the picture to use my affiliate link.

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