“‘You never buy me anything. You’re always like this,’ my daughter told me.
It was hard to hear, even harder to fight the overwhelming feeling of guilt.
‘Am I not doing enough for her? Am I limiting her desires too much?’ These thoughts always make my mind race.
Then, I look at if her basic needs are met. I can see they are. Don’t we do enough for her leisure? Yes, we do.
I try to accept the fact that being a mean mom is better than being an extravagant one, because that helps my kids to be happy about what they have.
But her words make me realize I need to put in more effort to teach my daughters about gratitude. Kids should be taught to feel gratitude and appreciate the hard work we put in to raise them and provide for their needs.
BENEFITS OF TEACHING GRATITUDE TO KIDS
- Gratitude makes them happier.
- It helps to improve their overall well-being because gratitude is proven to improve physical and mental health.
- Grateful kids are less materialistic, less self-centered, and more optimistic.
- Gratitude helps kids to stay resilient in hard times.
- Being grateful reduces jealousy and the need to have ‘more.’
- Now you understand the benefits of raising kids to be grateful in an entitled world, let’s see the ways to do it in real life.
1. STOP COMPLAINING
Kids are like sponges who absorb everything they see and hear. I often hear my kids say the words they pick up from adults or peers, even if they have heard it only once.
So, if you are a complainer, cut back on it and focus on reframing every negative situation.
Complaining about the day-to-day events like traffic, weather, or appliances breaking down may be a habit for us. But think about it. When we complain about these normal life events, what message are we passing on to kids?
They learn to complain about silly things and get angry about it. It’s hard to change old habits. But, from now on, try to be mindful of the words you speak.
Instead of complaining about the traffic, you can use the time to have fun or talk with your family. You can say things like, ‘I love that because of the traffic, I got to spend more time with you.’
Use the word ‘thank you’ more often, even if it’s to your family or when you receive the service of others. It demonstrates to them how to appreciate what people do, and that every small good deed is relevant.
2. TEACH THEM TO REFRAME EVERY NEGATIVE SITUATION
I mentioned this point above, and it’s worth elaborating. There is a Norwegian saying: ‘There’s no bad weather, only poor clothing.’ I love this quote and remind myself of this whenever I feel ungrateful.
And there is another quote from Napoleon Hill, one of my favorite authors: ‘Every adversity carries with it the seed of an equivalent or greater benefit.’
Gratitude is a great virtue to have, and teaching gratitude to kids is important because they learn to grow with a more positive attitude toward life. Also, kids will learn to find happiness in difficult life situations.
It’s a virtue I wish I had learned long before in my life, because life started getting better for me when I learned the importance of gratitude, thanks to all the personal development books.
So, whenever they complain about a situation, you can reframe it for them.
1) When your son complains about not having a toy which his friend has, you can say,
‘I bet you would love it if you could have all the toys in the world. Remember, you have toys he doesn’t have too.’
2) It’s so cold; I hate winter.
‘I know you hate being cold, but I am happy we can afford to buy the winter clothes to help you keep warm.’
3) I hate studying. I don’t want to go to school.
‘It’s frustrating for you to have so much to study. You wish you had more free time. On the other hand, I love how you are getting smarter every year by learning different subjects.’
Notice we don’t have to dismiss a child’s feelings by saying ‘it’s not true,’ or ‘you are so ungrateful.’ If you follow the positive parenting style, you acknowledge a child’s feelings by being empathetic first, and then pass on the lesson or the instruction.
In this case, we pass on a different perspective to view his situation. When you do this often, they will learn to look at events and situations differently.
3. TEACH DELAYED GRATIFICATION
I love technology and how it has made our lives faster and easier. But studies show people are getting more impatient and want everything ‘now’ rather than ‘later.’
That’s one of the reasons I am all for limiting screen time for kids. Because when you are addicted to internet usage, you get used to the ‘instant gratification’ culture. Your attention span becomes less, and you become more impatient.
It’s a worrying fact, because we want to raise kids who are willing to work hard to achieve their goals. And it requires waiting and patience to get to the results they want.
At our household, we usually provide immediately for our children’s urgent needs. But when it comes to the things they ‘want,’ we delay it. It is not always deliberate, but sometimes we can’t give everything they ask for at the moment.
In such cases, I always ask them to wait and explain why they have to. There may be an outburst, but we stay stern no matter what.
Do not panic thinking you are appearing as a ‘mean mom’ and they will love you less now. They may feel anger toward you, but at some point in their life, they will understand why you were a ‘mean mom’ and hopefully understand how it shaped them.
4. TEACH THE VALUE OF HARD WORK
If you want to raise an appreciative child, he needs to understand the value of hard work. Making kids do chores from a young age is one of the ways to develop an appreciation for the work others do.
They might not be able to comprehend the value of hard work just by hearing about it. Experience is the best teacher, therefore, engage them in all the chores around the house, little or big.
Teach them about not only the hard work you do, but of all the people who contribute to society — like farmers, vendors, doctors, etc.
Teach kids about how the food they eat reaches the table, the different processes, the hard work of different people involved, and say thanks for it.
5. SET HEALTHY BOUNDARIES
Kids need you to set boundaries. They need guidelines, and they depend on you to learn them.
Establish healthy boundaries so kids know what they can have and whatnot. Just because his friend has his own iPad, doesn’t mean he is entitled to have it too.
When my kids complain about something their cousins/friends get to have or do, I tell them each family has different rules. And we have different values compared to them.
This helps them set expectations for what they can have and not, and not feel entitled to have what everyone else has.
6. STOP GIVING THEM REWARDS AND INSTEAD DO THIS
Many families like to give allowance or rewards to children for doing chores, for good behavior, or for scoring good grades. It creates a sense of entitlement in kids because they lose the intrinsic motivation for good behavior.
Though giving gifts once in a while helps to keep relationships strong, it should not be the reward for good behavior. You can encourage them with good words and appreciate their efforts, but do not give material rewards.
Amy McCready, author and parenting coach, says giving allowance to children should not be based on any external factors. Instead, give allowance to teach kids about money management and develop independence.
When they are paid to do chores, they think they are entitled to receive money for doing the basic tasks and might not be willing to do it when no one is there to supervise them.
But when they do it out of a sense of duty, it helps them to appreciate the work their parents do to run the household.
Giving them age-appropriate allowance has another benefit. When they want to buy something, they can save money from their allowance for it. So, instead of getting used to having their desires fulfilled instantly, they learn to work and wait for it.
Sometimes, it’s easier for you to just hand over the cash to make the purchase, but kids never get to know the pleasure in earning something with their hard work.
7. TEACH ABOUT THE LESS FORTUNATE
Sometimes we get caught up so much in the stuff we want for ourselves, we forget to be satisfied with what we have. The same thing happens to kids too.
If we look at other people’s lives with a ‘more, more, more’ mentality, you miss what you have. But when you compare your life with the less fortunate, you start appreciating what you have.
I talk to my kids about the less fortunate ones when I see them on the streets so they learn to be appreciative and grateful. I also encourage them to give away money or stuff they no longer use so they can enjoy the blissfulness in giving, and that in turn makes them more grateful for the ability to have things to give.
8. DO NOT FEEL BAD ABOUT BEING A MEAN MOM (OR DAD)
Sometimes parents give in to kids’ requests because they want to provide kids with what they didn’t have. And, as I said, the fear of not providing enough for them.
Sometimes it’s hard to decide how much is enough for them.
I have a rule that helps me decide.
I do not buy them anything that does not fit in their room (or in our house). If they want a toy, but the toy station is full, I say NO.
Now, if they have toys they no longer play with, I encourage them to buy the new one when they give away the old ones to less fortunate people.
If their wardrobe is full, no more clothes until they outgrow the ones they currently have.
I also look for patterns. If we bought them something they didn’t use for more than two days, no more such similar stuff.
And, if they want a Barbie doll again, I remind them of the Barbies lying at home. Do not give in to the ‘more, more, more’ mentality, as it will make them never satisfied and ungrateful.
Yeah, it definitely makes you look mean. But kids need you to decide it for them, even though they don’t know it.
9. GIVE EXPERIENCES RATHER THAN STUFF
The pleasure in getting something you want, no matter how expensive it is, stays with you for a few days. After that, you get used to it and no longer cherish it.
But experiences are memories etched in your heart. Experiences have the power to make you happy, even after years. Rather than collecting things, focus on giving more experiences to children.
10. HAVE A DAILY GRATITUDE ROUTINE
If you want to make your kids grateful, having a gratitude routine helps a ton.
You can set a time in your day to do this. We usually do it before bedtime. Before putting them to sleep, I ask them to say two or three good things that happened that day for which they are grateful.
If they have nothing to say, I prompt them by asking, ‘Are you grateful you have eyes to see?,’ and that’s a yes.
On any given day, we have lots of blessings to be thankful for. This practice helps kids (and us) to stay in gratitude always.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Messy, Yet Lovely, where it originally appeared. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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