Gratitude

I’ve recently been thinking a lot about how to raise a grateful child. Or how to not raise an entitled child.

Is this even possible if you have family that shower them with gifts all of the time?  Is this realistic when their friends get everything they ask for and more?

Does your child whine when they don’t get the toys they want or whine for more?

Does your child expect things to be handed to them even if they aren’t appreciative?

Do you want them to be more mindful about taking care of others?

How can you create gratitude where there is none?

Model it

When you are feeling frustrated and at your worst, think about what you are grateful for and say it out-loud to your kids.

When you feel like the world is against you and nothing is going right, think about what is going right and tell your children.

When your children are being pain in the necks, stop and give them a hug and tell them how grateful you are that they are your children.

Your children will learn that not everything is perfect and that we can still find appreciation in our lives.

Volunteer

Do you ever feel different after you volunteer your time?  Do you feel energized or appreciative?  This will be true for your children too.  They get to do something productive that doesn’t have any concrete results for themselves, it is simply to do something for others.  This will help create empathy which then can translate to not being entitled.

When children are surrounded by people like themselves, then they tend to think that everyone is like that.  So if all of your children’s friends have everything that they need and more, then they might believe that they also should have everything they ask for plus more.

When volunteering, sometimes I say to my children that I help out now because someday, I might be the one needing help which leads me to the next one:

The tables can turn

Without creating anxiety in my children, I tell my children that sometimes we are able to help and sometimes we may need help.  Obviously, we are planning for the future and we don’t expect anything to happen to us but I create hope with my children that if things were to change and for some reason we were to lose our house or we weren’t able to have enough money to buy groceries one week, there are people out there that will help us and we’ll be OK.

But since we are able to buy groceries right now, we’ll buy a couple more groceries and donate them to the food bank just as someone would do that for us if the tables were turned.

One of my kids has a bit more of a tendency towards anxiety and he really does well with this message because it is part of the “We take care of each other” message that I’m constantly teaching and instead of feeling overwhelming to him, it actually feels comforting.

Allowance

When your children are 5 years or older, you can use allowance to help children from becoming too entitled. If your children are asking for more and more things you can tell them that they can use their allowance for whatever they want.  If they get 2 dollars a week then they can buy whatever they want for two dollars and that will drastically reduce the consumption of toys and goods.  If they want something that costs more than 2 dollars then they will have to start saving and stop asking for things.

Travel

Last but not least, you can travel to other countries and to other cultures. This one is a little tricky because going to an all inclusive resort in Mexico probably won’t create gratitude in your child.  It may only say, “Oh look at the have-nots. Aren’t we glad that we are part of the ‘have’s’  instead of the ‘have-nots?'” Don’t set it up as a look at them versus us situation because that can be damaging towards building community and creating understanding.

Instead, try a different approach where you are able to interact with other families on a beach or maybe through a homestay.  Learn about what similarities your families have.  Create a connection where your children can see how other people live and can find happiness through means other than possessions.

Practice Every Day!

Make a gratitude journal.  Ask each other at your family dinner what their favorite part of their day was.  And also ask about their challenges or their failures because being grateful doesn’t always mean being happy!

twin

The last week has been difficult here in Boulder with rains and the flooding.  We were very fortunate, but others weren’t so.

But what has cropped up after the floods, and after most disasters, is the community involvement.   People taking care of each other.

One group that popped up on Facebook, unofficially called the “mudslingers” but officially called Donate Boulder- Community Organized Flood Relief has been posting places where people need help, and you just show up with boots, gloves and whatever other tools you have.

Right now, another group of moms is in the process of organizing a community “store” for donations and support similar to the one after the Four Mile Fire.  You can see their website here http://www.4milestore.org.

Another group Colorado Flood Relief is making t-shirts with art from Boulder-native Scott Brooks.   100% of the proceeds will go to flood victims.

I often think of community as the secret sauce for raising children, and this whole experience has solidified that thought.  We need each other in the easy times, the rough times and in the extremely difficult times.

My boys are speaking more now and my favorite sentence from the weekend was, “Papa not here, papa helping people water out of basement.”

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intuitive

Parenting was intuitive many many years ago.  In fact, the word parenting didn’t exist because it wasn’t a “thing”; it just happened.  People didn’t have discussions about it or whether what they were doing was right or wrong.  They just did.

 
Nowadays, parenting is no longer intuitive, although many people will argue against that.  But times have changed and what came naturally when our grandparents were growing up doesn’t exist now.  Parents have a different job now with the way our world is changing.
  • Is managing your child’s screen time intuitive? no.
  • Is deciding what school your child is going to go to or if you should home-school or un-school intuitive? no
  • Is dealing with temper tantrums at the library story time intuitive? no
  • Is loving your child intuitive? YES (thank goodness!)
Parenting was intuitive when things had to get done.  So if you are growing up on a farm and the cows have to be milked, and the hay has to be harvested, and the eggs have to be collected, then your communication with your children is intuitive.  They help out, end of story.  
 
If your family was traveling across the country in a covered wagon to find work, then children had to help and be part of the working equation.  End of story.  
I’m not at all nostalgic for that time because I could not imagine for the life of me traveling across the country in a wagon with young children.  But people did it because they had to. 
 
What we deal with today is cleaning up our toys after play time, taking a bath, eating a nice meal even though we just had one a couple of hours ago, getting to music class on time.  None of these things have to happen for the sake of survival.   This is where parenting loses its intuitiveness. 
 
This is where parents struggle everyday.  This is where coaching helps because this is where parents are getting “stuck”.
 
In order to bring back some of the intuitiveness to parenting, the first step is to realize what is essential and what isn’t.  A great example of this is feeding children.  A lot of parents feel that a child must eat three balanced meals a day to be healthy.  But young children often don’t want to eat.  Their teeth may be hurting, they may not be growing that much for a short period, they may not feel well.  Parenting becomes intuitive when you know that they will not wither away if they decide not to eat.  They will eat when they are hungry.   
 
The times have changed and by accepting that things are different now and that parenting isn’t intuitive,  you are actually giving yourself a break.  You may not know how to deal with this.  It is ok that your stomach gives a little flutter and you feel nervous that you may be in over your head.  You are just acknowledging that this journey is big and that parenting isn’t what it used to be. 
 
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