My 10-year-old daughter knows when to say thank you, but I want to foster in her the core value of gratitude — towards her grandparents, parents and other adults who shower so much on her; also gratitude for things like being healthy and well-looked-after. I see too many youngsters who strut around like the world owes them, without a shred of awareness or gratitude. How do I work on this with my daughter?
Yes, these are often-heard complaints. “My daughter is so ungrateful; nothing is enough for her, whatever we provide,” says one mother. “My son treats me like an ATM (automated teller machine). There’s no need to thank a machine — the same way, there’s no need to even ask politely for anything or show any gratitude to us parents,” says one father. “My kids just don’t know how hard I work to give them all they have,” is another remark that is often heard.
Appreciate it: A thank you note is a start.
Being grateful and expressing gratitude are qualities that need to be taught to children. However, there is a fine balance between expecting recognition and gratitude for your efforts from your kids, and laying a guilt trip on them. When you talk in terms of the “sacrifices” you have made; how “exhausted” you are; how you “hate your job” but keep doing it for the family; how you have “slaved in the kitchen” to make their meals — all such statements and attitudes only foster guilt and then counter-resentment in children, not gratitude.
In trying to inculcate in our children some degree of awareness of the love, time, energy and money that we invest in their upbringing, we need to concentrate on gratitude and not guilt. Otherwise, you could be faced with an irate adolescent or teenager saying that one sentence that hurts so badly: “Well, I didn’t ask to be born!”
How do kids learn to be grateful?
# When kids see their own parents and other adults in the family expressing (verbally or by their actions) an appreciation for each other’s efforts. Too often, in our families, we consider it too “artificial” to thank each other. However, genuine appreciation can never come out sounding artificial. And it goes a long, long way in demonstrating to your kids that neither parent simply takes the other for granted.
# When kids understand what their parents do to earn a living — not as some great drudgery or sacrifice on the part of the parents, but as gainful, hard work — they develop a deeper understanding and awareness of your contribution.
# When kids are also appreciated and shown gratitude by their parents and other adults for something that they do. This works to put them in a frame of mind to appreciate people, too.
# When kids learn that there are other much less fortunate people in the world, it dawns on them that sound health and a secure family are not to be taken for granted, but are gifts to be grateful for.
# When kids are not instantly provided everything that they ask for (even when they are very young), they better appreciate what they get and learn not to take parents for granted.
An ungrateful child is not just an ill-mannered one, but also one whose happiness is dependent on the good things done for him. Teaching kids gratitude helps them genuinely enjoy and savour the many gifts — material as well as intangible — that the world offers.
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