As parents, it is tempting to provide everything for our children. But to raise a grateful child we need to keep in mind that children cannot get everything they want, all the time. The importance of raising a grateful child cannot be understated. However, if a child will grow up to have an attitude of gratitude, it starts early and with the parents.
Saying No seems difficult for the 21st Century Mum. From the latest toys to shoes, clothes, treats etc. We want them to have the best.
Does giving our children everything they desire and ask for guarantee a grateful attitude? Sadly that is not the case. Rather it gives them a sense of entitlement that they can always get what they want.
The truth is that the more you give them, the more insatiable their appetite for more becomes. Does this mean you should stop buying them gifts and other necessities? The answer is No, but we can teach them how to cultivate a grateful attitude of contentment and appreciation for the things you buy and do for them.
[Tweet “Giving thanks is an activity; being thankful, on the other hand, is an orientation. Living a life of gratitude is not dependent upon finding something for which to be thankful for.”]It is a state of heart and mind.
Gratitude helps people refocus on what they have instead of what they lack. Although it may feel contrived at first, this mental state grows stronger with use and practice.
On a Saturday afternoon, you take your three kids to a movie they’ve wanted to see, then to their favourite hamburger spot for dinner, followed by ice cream. When they get home, they want to watch a movie on Netflix. When you tell them you think they have had enough screen time for the day and you would like them to do something else, they complain that they have nothing to do.
Which parent has not had an experience like this with their kids? It can be frustrating for at least three reasons; first, when we do things for our children, it is natural and reasonable to expect them to express thanks and disappointing when they don’t. Secondly, when they are not thankful but instead complain, this can put everyone in a bad mood, since complaining almost always makes a person feel worse, not better; and finally being ungrateful and complaining comes across as inconsiderate and self-centred behaviour.
If part of your family culture is to reduce complaining, then it is time to take steps to teach and practice gratitude.
Practical Ways To Raise Grateful Kids
In order to cultivate a habit of gratitude; we need to understand that gratitude depends on two other virtues. A positive attitude (seeing the good) and fortitude (coping with adversity).
Many children think life should be easy — free of frustration, disappointment and heartache — and are unhappy when it is not.
The virtue of fortitude begins with understanding and accepting a basic truth: Life is difficult. With our help, children can learn to be grateful even for the challenges of life — and see them as opportunities to provide growth, wisdom and strength of character.
Learn to Say No
At times saying No to our children can be extremely difficult but saying No will help to curb the feelings of entitlement. When children realize that they cannot always get what they want, they learn to wait. To raise grateful children it is important that they understand that they do not get everything they want. Life is not like that.
Provide a way for your Children to earn
Creating an opportunity for your children to work in order to earn is great to teach delayed gratification. Having your child do work of some sort to earn an income, a gift or a Christmas gift does not have to be difficult. It could be as simple as doing extra chores or selling paintings to family and friends. The benefit is that your child will cultivate a grateful attitude and also understand the value of hard work.
The Importance of Charity
Teaching your children the 10/10/80 concept of giving away 10%, saving 10%, and using the rest of their money for their personal needs is a great lesson to learn. This will teach them how to care for other people and also teach them financial responsibility.
Keep a Family Gratitude Journal
Having a family gratitude journal that you can use to write down everything your family is grateful for is a great idea to cultivate an attitude of gratitude. A grateful child should be able to share some of the things they are grateful for on a daily basis. Start one today and see the value of teaching them to be intentional when it comes to being thankful.
[Tweet “The ability to count your blessings is something that can be learnt.”] As a family, make a list of the things you tend to take for granted. At dinner, you could think about everyone who had something to do with the meal you are making; this includes the farmers, the truck drivers, the grocery store staff, and the cook.
As a follow-up activity, try this from Hal Urban’s Life’s Greatest Lessons: Write across the top of the page “I am thankful for . . .” Under that make three columns. Label the first one “People”; under that, list all the people you are thankful for. Label the second column “Things”; under that, list all the material things you’re grateful for. Label the third column “Other”; under that, list anything else you are thankful for.
You could try the “appreciation chair.” Each day during the week, a different family member takes a turn sitting on it. Everyone else tells that person why they appreciate them.
Model Gratitude as an Attitude and Spend Time Together
Children learn more from what you do not what you say. Spending time with your children and having them see you practice gratitude goes a long way in raising a grateful child. Teaching them your values, manners (how to say thank you, please etc.) and the word of God is not enough if they cannot see you doing same. Model the behaviour you want and it will stick.
As a family, you could commit to going 24 hours without complaining about anything. Ask your kids to predict whether they’ll be able to do it. After the 24 hours are up, discuss as a group: How did we each do? What did we learn? Do we need to complain in order to make ourselves feel better? What other ways can we deal with stress or disappointment?
Anticipate situations where you would like your children to express gratitude instead of complaining, and then help them plan to do that.
Remember the early story about the children who went to a movie, then got burgers and ice cream but complained when they got home because they couldn’t watch a movie on Netflix? Before the outing, the parent could have been proactive by saying, “Okay, guys, when we get home today, I’m going to ask you, ‘What were some things we did today that you’re thankful for — and why?’ So be thinking of that, okay? It will make a nice end to the day. And when we get home, instead of more screen time, I’m sure Mom would appreciate it if you ask if there’s anything you can do to help.” This starts to show the children that you expect them to be grateful and to show it.
What other ways do you teach your child to be grateful and to have an attitude of gratitude? Share with us.