It happens quite by accident. No one means for it to happen. And yet it happens to the best of us.
We work hard to give our children the very best childhood possible, only to realize one day that our kids have developed a self-centered, entitled and ungrateful attitude.
Maybe it’s the Christmas list that’s three miles long, the tantrum at the grocery store, or the endless stream of demands… there’s no limit to the ways our kids can be self-centered, entitled and ungrateful.
Thankfully, however, there are also plenty of ways to raise children who are truly grateful. Here are four.
1. Insist On Good Manners
Having good manners isn’t just polite. It’s also a way to express gratitude and appreciation. Consider the difference between the demand “Give it now!” and the request “May I have it, please?” The first is entitled and self-centered; the second acknowledges the other person and the fact that the object requested isn’t just a given.
Children as young as one or two can learn please and thank you. Older children can write thank you notes. While these actions might not mean much to them at first, helping your children establish good manners at an early age will lay a strong foundation for gratitude down the road.
2. Don’t Be Afraid to Say No
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to give your children good things, but the fact is that the more “stuff” kids have, the less grateful they tend to be. When kids get everything they ask for, they expect to get everything they ask for. Whether your child is asking for candy in the check-out line, new shoes at the mall or dessert before dinner, don’t be afraid to say no. Receiving gifts should be an exciting and special event, not an expectation.
3. Give Them Plenty of Opportunities to Serve
It’s hard to focus on all the things you don’t have when you are busy serving people who have far less than you. Rather than lecturing your children about gratitude, give them plenty of opportunities to serve others and let experience be the teacher. Insist that your children help around the house, and take them into the community to serve others as well.
(Not sure how your children can serve? Here’s a list of 9 Service Projects Even Preschoolers Can Do.)
4. Model a Life of Gratitude Yourself
The most important way you can raise grateful children, however, is to model gratitude yourself. Do you always remember to say please and thank you? Do you regularly show your family how much you appreciate them? Do you point out to your children the ways in which God has provided? Or are you constantly complaining and always buying more, more, more? Get in the habit of being truly thankful yourself, and your children are sure to follow suit.
Raising children who are truly grateful isn’t easy, but with these four tips, a little love and a lot of patience, it can be done!
Are your children starting to get the holiday season “gimmes?” What do you do to teach your children to be grateful for what they have?
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