In the materialistic world we live in, raising children who aren’t constantly saying, “I want that” can be a challenge. Television and magazine ads are constantly promoting new toys, the latest X-box games are almost impossible to keep up with, and kids are bringing their cool, new gadgets to school to show them off, much to the envy of their peers.
A large part of our society struggles with entitlement issues. Many people believe they should have it all, and the more they have, the happier they’ll be. So how can a parent raise their child to be grateful for what they have, instead of envying the possessions of others, and always wanting more? In Amy McCready’s book, The “Me, Me, Me” Epidemic: A Step-by-Step Guide to Raising Capable, Grateful Kids in an Over-Entitled World, she details a few strategies to help parents model gratitude and help their children do the same.
1. Go Without Luxury
Catering to a child’s every desire can cause them to feel entitled. If you’re constantly going out of your way to get their favorite hard-to-find treat for school lunches, or buying them the latest games or the coolest shoes, they’ll expect it on a regular basis. To help your children feel grateful for what they already have, try going without luxury for a week or a month. Decide what that means for your family. Is it no eating out or no television? Cutting back may seem uncomfortable at first, but it will help the whole family learn to appreciate the simple things, and realize that they are blessed to have more.
Volunteering always seems like a great idea, but life often gets in the way. Check your schedule and find a day when your family can volunteer. Sit down and discuss your volunteer options with your children, and let them pick the activity. Put it on the calendar once a month and be sure not to skip. Volunteering can help your children understand the concept of being grateful for what they have, and it can also get them into the habit of helping others.
3. Find the Silver Lining
Most of us are guilty of whining and complaining a little too much. When a soccer game gets rained out or the movie your kids wanted to see is sold out, find the silver lining to show your children there is always something to be grateful for. Look for the lesson, the blessing or the humor in situations that aren’t ideal, so you can teach them to do the same.
4. Say “Thank you”
Children will follow the example that their parents set. Generously thank the people who interact with you in a positive way — the person who bags your groceries, the stranger who holds the door for you, your waiter or waitress. Show your kids that you’re grateful for the kindness that others show. To go a step further than “Thank you,” use specifics. Ask for the manager at a restaurant to share how great your service was. Show your kids how one small act of kindness has the ability to brighten someone’s whole day.
5. Make Gratitude Part of Your Routine
Research shows that grateful people are some of the happiest people. Go around the dinner table and have each person say three things they’re thankful for. Make it a daily routine and challenge each family member to find something different to be grateful for each day. After a while, gratitude will become a permanent part of your kids’ attitude.
6. Change Your Perspective
Stop saying “I have to” and start saying “I get to.” Instead of “I have to drive my kids to school” or “I have to go to my son’s game tonight,” use “I get to drive my kids to school” and “I get to go to my son’s game tonight.” This simple tweak may be more difficult than it sounds, but changing your perspective can help remind you to be grateful for even the little, exhausting and sometimes frustrating moments of parenting. You’ll also be giving your kids a large dose of self-worth by letting them know you are excited to spend time with them, and they might even turn their own “have to’s” into “get-to’s.”
Don’t forget to teach children the truth about life!