Are We Hurting Our Kids By Giving Too Many Choices?

I hate getting drive thru food with my entire family. Hate. It.

With a newly married daughter and our other teenage kids going in different directions, it is truly a rare occurrence that there are six or seven of us in the drive thru at the same time. But it still happens on occasion, particularly on road trips. And there I find myself, talking to the guy on the other side of the speaker at Taco Bell or Sonic, trying to get everyone's order right.

And it's always miserable.

Too many details. Too many changes. Too much potential for mistakes and complaints. The whole ordering process makes me think that these guys were on to something.

Every time I find myself trying to order for a van full of my immediate descendants using a mental list of very specific dietary requests, God brings to mind my uncle Sam. Specifically, God reminds me of one of my most favorite and beautiful childhood memories and the words of my generous and wise uncle.

Here's what I remember...

Our extended family had gathered at my grandparents' house in Oklahoma for Christmas when I was probably no more than seven or eight. My dad and my uncle Sam graciously volunteered to take six boys (me, my brother, and our four cousins) fishing for the afternoon. After a few hours of us catching exactly zero fish, we all climbed back into the station wagon for the ride back to the house. On the way home, uncle Sam pulled over at a convenience store, stopped the car, looked over his shoulder and spoke the following words: "Who wants a cherry slushie?"

Almost immediately, there was a chorus of six different boys' voices screaming out at the same time: "I want grape!" "I want orange!" "Do they have lime?" "Can I get a coke instead?" It all happened at once, so it's hard to tell who said what, but you get the picture.

Calmly, and quietly, my uncle asked again: "Who wants a cherry slushie?"

The voices shouted out their specific orders once again. This time it was louder and more articulate, because it was obvious that the old man (who was probably 35 at the time) didn't hear us very well.

I can clearly remember uncle Sam climbing out of the car, standing up, and then leaning his head back through the car window to offer us one last chance to take advantage of his generosity: "Who. Wants. A cherry. Slushie?"

At exactly the same moment, six pre-adolescent boys finally figured out what was happening. In unison, we all held up our hand and said, "I do!" Ten minutes later we were back on the road, slushies in our hands, lips stained red, smiles on our faces.

Uncle Sam was generous that day. But he was also brilliant. He didn't give six boys much of a choice, but we still ended up very happy and blessed.

As Imperfect and Normal Families, we must make sure that we don't unintentionally train our kids to believe that having a variety of options is a God-given right. Philippians 4:19 promises that "God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus." He will always meet our needs, but not necessarily our every selfish want. Parents will do well to make sure their kids know the difference. 

Beyond the vast options of drive thru fast food or convenience store slushies, how many choices do we give our kids every day? How hard do we work as parents to make sure that their every want is accommodated in our desire to keep them happy and well-provided for? Is it possible that we are doing them more harm than good by letting them have exactly what they want?

I'd love to hear your thoughts. Comments are always welcomed...