RAISING GRATEFUL KIDS
You’ve probably heard of children who never say “Thank you” for anything, but are quick to throw “You don’t love me” tantrums when their parents won’t or can’t respond instantly to demands. That makes for a household no one wants to live in. If you’d rather raise children who appreciate what they have, read on.
Count Your Own Blessings
If you grumble about what you wish you had, you’ll have little credibility telling your children that happiness doesn’t just mean instant gratification. The first rule of raising grateful kids is to be a grateful person yourself. (If you have trouble, a few weeks of volunteering in poverty-assistance programs does wonders to cure “everyone has it better than me” thinking.)
Don’t Worry About “Burdening Them With a Sense of Obligation”
Silly as it sounds, some parents deliberately avoid teaching their kids to say thank you, for fear that making young children feel “obligated” will create poor self-esteem and unnecessary stress, or even lead to abusive relationships with people who harp on “you don’t appreciate me.” Of course, you should teach kids to respect themselves and speak up for their legitimate rights, but encouraging “I owe no one anything” thinking can only lead to trouble. Those who not only make a habit of thanking others for obvious favors, but actively seek out opportunities to express gratitude, are happier and more proactive.
Let Them Work For Some Things
People who earn things through hard work find gratitude easier than people who are given everything on demand. If that sounds illogical, remember that working for what they get means the kids will:
- Know firsthand what goes into effort and sacrifice, and be less likely to take others’ efforts for granted.
- Be equipped to understand that no one (not even doting parents) has an unlimited supply of resources.
- Have confidence in themselves, rather than believing all their personal power lies in convincing others to give to them.
When your kids ask for something expensive or complicated, don’t answer with a simple “yes” or “no.” Encourage them to consider why this is important to them and what they could do toward personally obtaining it.
Make It a Family Tradition
Why should “share what you’re thankful for around the dinner table” be practiced just once a year at Thanksgiving? Do it once a week, or even every day.
Some other ideas for regularly practicing gratitude as a family:
- Include “count your blessings” diaries among regular birthday or Christmas gifts.
- Pray with your children each night, giving thanks for specific blessings of the day.
- Make a game of asking anyone who complains to find five positive things in the situation. Once you’re all used to minimizing your own complaints, try applying the same challenge to negative comments overheard from peers or on the news (without criticizing the complainer—that’s negative talk).
- In your regular family nights, include time for creating songs, poems, or collages illustrating things you’re thankful for.
And remember, your kids will grow up most grateful to you if you focus on giving them your time, attention, and respect!