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?
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.
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.
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.
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!