I Get To!
by Dr. Kathy Koch
On an episode of The Dr. Phil Show, Jamie Lee Curtis made an impressive observation. I think her idea could revolutionize our attempts to cultivate gratitude and contentment in our children.
First, Ms. Curtis challenged adults to realize how often we say, “I have to.” Think about it: I have to go to work. I have to clean the house. I have to lead the Bible study again this week. We have to eat at home again. How many have to’s do you say in a day?
Then Curtis suggested parents begin to make a subtle change in their language: I get to go to work. I get to clean the house. I get to lead the Bible study. We get to eat at home again rather than fighting restaurant crowds and noise. Do you hear the difference in tone made by that one little word change? It’s huge!
To have to go to work can imply drudgery and unhappiness. We may not always (or ever!) be thrilled with our jobs, but we get to go to work. We have jobs. We can help to support our families, can use our God-given abilities, and can even make a positive impact there.
In a similar way, saying that I get to clean my house speaks volumes to a child. We have a roof over our heads. I’ve been entrusted with its care. I am able-bodied enough to do this work. Praise God!
I get to!
What about leading the Bible study? I get to share my passion for God’s Word. I get to use my spiritual gift of teaching. I get to minister to hurting women. When our children hear this language they, too, may choose to see how blessed they are when they get to do things.
And eating in? Having to eat at home can imply we’d rather be out with friends or eating something else somewhere else, sometimes just because that’s what we think all our friends are doing. But getting to eat at home can emphasize our love of family, our preference for quieter conversations, and our hope we’ll have time to play a game or help with homework afterwards.
You will change
By now you’re thinking, “But let’s be honest. Sometimes work feels more like an obligation than a privilege. And preparing to lead the Bible study takes time, which I never have enough of. And house cleaning? Get real! I’m not going to lie to my children about the realities of life.”
No, you don’t want to lie. But the beauty of finding get to’s in place of have to’s is the shift that will occur in your own heart. Yes, Jesus condemned the Pharisees for working to look good on the outside without regard to their heart conditions (Matt. 23:27). But God can work from the outside in to change your heart as you choose to obey His commands to be thankful and content (e.g., 1 Tim. 6:6-8, Heb. 13:5, 1 Thess. 5:18).
You can ask God to help you identify some get to areas in your life. Also, ask Him to remind you to use the get to phrase, especially in the presence of your children. If you do this, I would be very surprised if, in short, order you are not truly content in, and grateful for, much that you presently have to do.
And they will too
And then it will transfer to your children. Could a child be more willing to clean his room if his parents suddenly get to clean the kitchen? Might a teen with a negative view of school change her attitude when her parents suddenly get to go to work? Could children of all ages increase their contentment for their present circumstances rather than always thinking about what they don’t have or can’t do?
Give it to God and watch
What is an example in your life? What have to can you turn into a get to? Earnestly give it to God and then watch. How does your choice affect your attitudes? What effect is it having on your children? Perhaps He will even lead you to change one have to that is directly relevant to your children. For example, I have lots of clothes I get to iron vs. I have to iron all these clothes. And, Grandma is alive and we get to go visit her in the nursing home vs. we have to go visit grandma.
Don’t stop with just one! Keep on changing have to’s – big and small – into get to’s. Let’s see what God can do with that!