You’ve probably heard of children who never say “Thank you” for anything, but are quick to throw “You don’t love me” tantrums when their parents won’t or can’t respond instantly to demands. That makes for a household no one wants to live in. If you’d rather raise children who appreciate what they have, read on.
If you grumble about what you wish you had, you’ll have little credibility telling your children that happiness doesn’t just mean instant gratification. The first rule of raising grateful kids is to be a grateful person yourself. (If you have trouble, a few weeks of volunteering in poverty-assistance programs does wonders to cure “everyone has it better than me” thinking.)
Silly as it sounds, some parents deliberately avoid teaching their kids to say thank you, for fear that making young children feel “obligated” will create poor self-esteem and unnecessary stress, or even lead to abusive relationships with people who harp on “you don’t appreciate me.” Of course, you should teach kids to respect themselves and speak up for their legitimate rights, but encouraging “I owe no one anything” thinking can only lead to trouble. Those who not only make a habit of thanking others for obvious favors, but actively seek out opportunities to express gratitude, are happier and more proactive.
People who earn things through hard work find gratitude easier than people who are given everything on demand. If that sounds illogical, remember that working for what they get means the kids will:
When your kids ask for something expensive or complicated, don’t answer with a simple “yes” or “no.” Encourage them to consider why this is important to them and what they could do toward personally obtaining it.
Why should “share what you’re thankful for around the dinner table” be practiced just once a year at Thanksgiving? Do it once a week, or even every day.
Some other ideas for regularly practicing gratitude as a family:
And remember, your kids will grow up most grateful to you if you focus on giving them your time, attention, and respect!