By Bonnie Harris
So many parents complain, especially at holiday and birthday time, how ungrateful their children are. It’s hard to put in all the time, effort, and money into our children’s upbringing and wants and desires only to have them take and take and show no appreciation. So how do we turn this around? How do we raise grateful children?
The irony is that when you expect your children to show appreciation – in other words when your button gets pushed because they don’t, and you react anywhere from subtly guilt-tripping to blowing up – they will only get defensive and you will never see it. Yet when you least expect it and never demand it, that’s when you get it.
The most important key to getting started on raising gratitude is to understand that everything you do for your children, everything you buy, every opportunity you provide is your choice. Nobody is making you buy or do anything. Not even the “everybodies” who all have just what your child is demanding.
If you don’t want your child to have what “everybody else has”, don’t get it. Be clear in yourself and confident of your values. Do not lay it on your child with, “You don’t need that. Just because your friends have it, doesn’t mean you have to.” Instead go with an empathic approach and take responsibility for yourself. “I know it’s hard to be the only one who doesn’t get to see that movie. You really want to be in the know, I get it. Deciding what is okay and what is not is my job. Bummer. You have to live with a mum who sometimes makes you mad.”
Many parents feel suckered into succumbing to their kids’ demands out of sheer frustration to stop the whining or arguing. Many feel guilty about the lack of time they are able to spend with their kids or the split time that divorce requires. Many were required to show appreciation to their needy parents and so expect the same of their own children. Whatever the reason, when children feel pressured to appreciate, they usually come up empty.
Don’t ask for it. The “After all I’ve done for you, why can’t you do one thing for me?” approach merely lays on guilt creating more resistance. Who wants to hear that? The “Do you realize how good you’ve got it” approach assumes that your children are able to compare their lives to yours or to others who have very little. First, they are not capable of that perspective when they are young, and second, why should they be asked to be grateful for the only experiences they know? It takes maturity to understand and compare one’s life to another’s.
See next page for what TO do to encourage gratitude…