I often look at my kids and sigh in utter exasperation. The fierce love I have for them sometimes threatens to rip my poor heart apart. Very few things in life are as powerful as a parent's love. If you catch a parent claiming that they can leap over mountains and wade through multiple oceans for their kids, you better believe them.
Unfortunately, driven by this formidable love and in a bid to offer their kids the best childhood possible, parents often end up raising entitled and ungrateful kids. When parents attend to their kids' whims and demands at the drop of a hat and fill their lives with countless material stuff, guess what gives? Gratitude!
If you sense that your kids are ungrateful, don't despair. There are several things you can do to remedy the situation. But first things first, let's explore what gratitude means.
What Is Gratitude?
Gratitude is the act of showing appreciation for something done or received. The call for people to "Give thanks" is weaved throughout the entire Bible, from the old testament to the new. We cannot, therefore, gamble with this invaluable practice. We need to pass it down faithfully to our kids. But let's get one thing clear. Gratitude is not hinged on the number of "thank you's" your child sprinkles in their daily conversations. It's more than that. Gratitude zooms into the bigger picture. A grateful heart exudes contentment and does not abandon hope at first sight of a storm.
Saying "Thank you" is merely the top coating of a well-painted wall. Beneath it are layers of a positive attitude, joy, and contentment. Granted, kids will not become grateful overnight. Raising grateful kids is a process that gains momentum as their cognitive abilities take shape.
Having said that, how can you ascertain whether your child is grateful or not. Here are some traits that grateful kids exhibit.
Traits of Grateful Children:
- They are empathetic towards those in need or distress
- They share their stuff easily
- They exude contentment with what they already own
- They say "Thank you" without being pressed
- They take care of what they own
- They offer assistance without being asked
If your child does not tick all the boxes, fret not. We are here to help. Here are a few things you can do to teach them gratitude.
1. Explain to Them What Gratitude Really Is
Are your kids familiar with the five magic words? We hope they are, but if they are late to the party, you may need to teach them how to use the words- Please, Thank you, You are Welcome, Excuse me, and Sorry. Additionally, besides encouraging them to say thank you each time they receive a favor, take time and break it down to them (especially the younger ones) what gratitude really is.
You can use four questions to stoke gratitude in your child:
a) What do you have in your life that you are grateful for? This will pop their eyes open to all the stuff they enjoy having.
b) Why do you think you received that which you are grateful for? – This will make them appreciate that they didn't earn a lot of what they are grateful for.
c) How does having what you are grateful for make you feel? – This will help them connect the positive feelings with the things they enjoy having.
d) How would you like to express how you feel about this gift? This may prompt them to express gratitude and even spur them towards initiating acts of kindness.
2. Keep a Gratitude Jar
It's so easy to lose sight of past blessings when tough times creep upon us. Yet God would have us constantly ruminate over ALL His deeds in our lives. "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits." (Psalm 103:2)
A gratitude jar is a great place to start while seeking to ingrain gratitude in kids. Look for a jar or any container where you can slip in notes. You can perk it up using colorful stickers and/or a ribbon on its neck. If your kids can write, encourage them to note down the things they are grateful for each day and slip them into the jar.
For the younger kids who can't write, ask them what they are grateful for and let the older kids or yourself jot it down. Then choose a day within the week where you all sit down and bask in gratitude as you pore over the notes.
3. Teach Your Kids to Look for the Silver Lining
Let's be honest; it's not always easy to chin up when we are smack dab in turmoil. Tough times have a way of dampening even the most cheerful heart. It's hard enough for an adult to make lemonade out of lemons, let alone a young child.
But you can harness difficult circumstances and teach your kids gratitude. For instance, your child may be crestfallen because their best friend was shooed away to a different school. Being separated from a best friend is heartbreaking, even for an adult. However, you can help your child look for the good that will seep out of their "tragedy." In this case, you can point out to your child that she now has an opportunity to invite her best friend for a sleepover.
Teaching your kids to look for the silver lining under challenging times helps ingrain a positive attitude towards life.
4. Let Them See You Being Grateful
The fastest way of teaching kids gratitude is by modeling the same. It has been said that children are like sponges. They soak up the words and actions of those around them and replicate them down to a T. You will be sabotaging your efforts to etch gratitude in your kids if you are not grateful yourself.
Let your kids hear you appreciating the shop attendant, parking attendant, teacher, delivery man, and everyone else who crosses your path. Be grateful to your kids when they extend favors to you. Leave a trail of gratitude in your daily activities and watch your kids do the same.
5. Team Up With Your Kids in Helping Others
As aforementioned, one glaring trait exhibited by ungrateful kids is their inability to empathize with others. They tend to be self-centered and unruffled by the needs of those around them. Such a child could be chowing down a delectable snack in the company of another famished child and will not offer to share even a teeny-weeny bite unless coerced.
Parents can flip this attitude on its head by volunteering to help others as their kids watch. Wondering where to start? You don't have to search very far; there's always someone around you who could use some help. Helping others is not only a noble thing to do, but it also perks up your happiness and sense of wellbeing. Choose a benevolent project and let your kids be part of it. You can, for instance, ask them to assist you in packing clothes or toys for donation. You can also encourage them to start a piggy bank specifically for charity work.
Involving your children in helping others enables them to put things into perspective and embrace a positive attitude in life.
Train Up Your Child
Make no mistake, gratitude or lack of it is not inherent. Some kids are not born grateful and others entitled. Children are all born with a squeaky clean slate that fills up with the habits and attitudes they glean from those around them. Grateful parents will almost always raise grateful kids. So go ahead and model gratitude to your kids and watch them bloom. "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it." (Proverbs 22:6)
Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Kerkez
Keren Kanyago is a freelance writer for hire and blogger at Parenting Spring. As a wife and mom, she uses her blog to weigh in on pertinent issues around parenting, marriage, the Christian Faith, and an assortment of other lifestyle topics. She holds a degree in mass communication with a specialty in print media. You can shoot her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org