Our friends own a boat. They have been gracious and generous enough with it to allow us to accompany them on excursions, fishing trips, and quick adventures around our neighborhood. It’s been great fun for all of us.

The other day my oldest, five, asked me why we don’t own a boat. The true answer is that we can’t afford one. But telling a five-year-old that will only lead to many unanswerable questions.

However, there is a broader issue here that I think many parents grapple with – how do we teach our children, who live in a world of such abundance, to be grateful, content, and happy with what they have? Many of us realize that our children enjoy abundance that is unparalleled in human history – in terms of technology, opportunity, and every materialistic comfort. And yet, our children are always asking for and wanting more. Every holiday is an excuse to get gifts. Every time they visit a store it’s expected that they will get a toy.

This attitude of “possessions above all else” is worrisome. Yet, I think it’s correctable. Here are some ways to help our children learn to be grateful above all else.

1. Leave Your Jealousy at the Door

If your children hear you complaining about not being able to buy some new electronics item, or article of jewelry, or jealously admiring a new toy your neighbor bought, then guess what? Your children will probably do the same thing. Our children model our behavior and if we live a life of coveting items and possessions to make ourselves feel better, then our children will learn that, too, and incorporate that behavior into their lifestyle.

2. Express Gratitude Often

To combat that, express your gratefulness often in your daily life. Flip your thinking and instead of complaining about what you don’t have, express thankfulness for what you do have. It can be simple – showing your gratitude for a meal, a sunset, or an old, comfortable pair of shoes. The important thing is to let your children hear you sharing your appreciation for the simpler things in life.

3. Teach Work Ethic

There’s a new camera that I want and I’ve come close to just splurging and buying it, even though it’s not in our budget. Instead, I’ve decided to diligently save a little bit each month and hopefully purchase it while I’m still young enough to enjoy it. It might take me a while, but that’s okay. And I plan to use this example as a teaching moment for my kids.

Hopefully, they can learn that when we want something in life, we need to set a goal and work extra hard to attain it. If we want something, our kids need to learn that the most fruitful option is to work more or pick up an extra job, save money and get what we want. The satisfaction achieved will be worth any imposition.

4. Understand the Context

Kids live in a bubble. They have their toys, their house, their clothes, their electronics, their cable, and their stuff. In many cases, they are unable to comprehend the larger world outside of their walls or the insulation of their community. But there are many people in the world who exist with much, much less than our children do. Help your children to understand this by speaking them to about those who are less fortunate than we are.

If your children are old enough to understand, take them to places where they can volunteer to help those in need. Another option is to take advantage of charitable opportunities within your church or other social service agencies where you and your child can experience firsthand what it’s like to live with less.

5. Other Things Matter More

Our children live in a consumer-driven world. Most of us grew up the same way and it will probably be this way for a while. That's why it's critical for parents to help focus our children's attention on more important pursuits like self-satisfaction, self-esteem, and self-confidence. If a child feels confident and satisfied with himself and the world around him, he will be less likely to find satisfaction in things. You can help a child accomplish this by affirming him and building his confidence through words and actions.