Dear RezilientKidz Team,
Our sons (8 and 10) are really awesome kids, but it seems like they have some entitlement issues. My husband and I feel like we’re always doing or buying something for them, but there’s not always a whole lot of thankfulness. It’s like they just expect things to be given to them. What would you suggest for instilling a sense of gratitude?
Great question! Gratitude is a valuable quality that communicates appreciation to someone who has done something for us. It also gives us an opportunity to practice humility. This simple graciousness might not get a lot of press these days, but it’s an important trait for your children to develop.
So how do you promote gratitude in your kids? First, do a self-check. How thankful are you and your husband? Do you recognize the ways in which you’ve been blessed, and do you talk with your children about them? When it comes to teaching kids about gratitude, more is caught than taught.
Next, think about any ways you might be inadvertently contributing to their sense of entitlement. Are you regularly buying things for your children just because they want them, or you think those things will make them happy? Sometimes parents feel that to be loving is to be giving. In reality, one of the most loving things a parent can do is refrain from gratuitous giving, especially if it fosters improper expectations or attitudes in a child. Begin to teach your children Restraint: Asset #31. If we are expecting our children to say “No” when faced with potentially life-altering decisions, we’ve got to start teaching them the importance of restraint when it comes to relatively insignificant issues. Instead of simply giving things to your kids, allow them to do chores to earn money and save up for what they want. This will also aid in helping to strengthen Asset #30: Responsibility in the life of your child. Let them take responsibility for investing time and effort into earning the privilege of certain tangible items – like a cellphone. This will help them learn important financial disciplines while they discover the value (in time and hard work) of the money they’ve earned.
Along a similar line, do you do things for your children that they can (and should) do for themselves? For example, are they cleaning up after themselves or do you do it for them? Having someone pick up after them is neither healthy nor helpful for kids.
Finally, adults as well as children develop a sense of thankfulness when they get outside of themselves and serve others. Talk with your kids and think of interesting and fun ways to invest in others.
There are so many ways to serve. On a local level, serving others might mean doing some housework or yardwork for an older person who is home-bound, or making and delivering treats to a senior center. It could include volunteering to help clean up a neighborhood park or having a family garage sale and donating the money to charity. The often-overlooked Asset of Equality and Social Justice is strengthened when a young person places high value on promoting equality and reducing hunger and poverty. If your children want to help those in other countries, they can raise money to dig a well to provide clean water for a village in Africa. Or they may consider raising funds to help a child advocacy group like Compassion International — you might even wish to consider sponsoring a child through that group. Whatever you and your family choose to do, put the emphasis not on the work but on the people you’re helping.