How do I get my very talented sportsperson son, now 15, to become more aware of, and acknowledge, the nearly invisible contribution of my wife and her father, and sometimes myself, in his successes? They have played chauffeur, dietitian, counsellor, masseur/ masseuse, secretary and emotional supporters to him, but I get the feeling that while he says thanks ma, thanks ‘appa’, etc., he takes the support for granted. He has shown irritation and impatience when the “system” has let him down because of some domestic trouble. I don’t know how to change this without sounding as if I am resenting what we have been doing for him.
The process of getting any child—particularly one on whom so much adult attention and hard work has been lavished—to be appreciative and grateful should begin much before the age of 15. Ideally, the seeds for this must be sown early, and not when we see disturbing signs that our children are taking us thoroughly for granted.
Teaching a child to be grateful and appreciative of what the adults around him or her do for him doesn’t mean we get our children to feel “obliged” and “beholden” to us. It really isn’t so much about parents feeling validated and appreciated, it’s more about the child becoming a better person when he learns to value what he gets from the world of loving adults around him. While children necessarily must feel entitled to your love and the nurturing of their talents, there is a time when they must understand that sometimes the adults in their lives provide this at the cost of their own opportunities and personal goals. It is a part of a child’s maturing and developing process to see his parents, grandparents, godparents and other concerned and loving adults as people in their own right who go out of their way to enable his/her growth.
In our anxiety to have our children become achievers and successful at academics, sports, music or any other special talent, many of us let some simple lessons fall by the wayside. And, in this way, your star son begins to totally take for granted all the little invisible and mundane things taken care of that go into the making of his career. If we want our children to keep it real, it’s important that we too keep it real. Which means that however talented, busy and “in demand” our children may be, we must expect them to do a little work around the house, take note of the needs of all the people who usually play, as you say, chauffeur, coach, dietitian, counsellor, etc. Taking note means the child must sometimes be called upon to do things in return to help with things adults need help with (cellphones and computers, perhaps). Some parents introduce a tiny before-bed or morning ritual of “giving thanks” to everyone real and spiritual who makes the child’s day possible.
Offline: Don’t let your child take your concern for him for granted. Thinkstock
As for the impatience and dismissive behaviour on the part of your 15-year-old about some system not working on one particular day and inconveniencing him, I think, this behaviour is just not acceptable. You will be doing your son a big favour if you pull him off the road for a bit and talk to him about this, reminding him gently that the adults in his life are not his staff. You would do well to introduce even a 10-minute window in his day in which he does something selflessly for his mother or grandfather.
Making a child feel secure and special is one thing, but letting him take it all for granted without any appreciation is bad for his personality development.
Gouri Dange is the author of ABCs of Parenting.
Write to Gouri at email@example.com