This post was originally published in the November 2019 Glover Park Gazette
Every November I write about parents being grateful, this year I want to explore how we can instill gratefulness in our kids. Remember, it’s developmentally normal and annoying for kids to be materialistic and self-centered. Frankly, weren’t most of us when we were kids? And usually explaining to them how lucky they are falls on deaf ears. I was not grateful for the meals my step-mom cooked me until I was about 33, and had two toddlers, and I had to keep making dinner, every night. Overflowing with gratitude, I called her and thanked her for every last dinner she provided, even the ones I didn’t like. I meant it, from my toes to my heart. I was FINALLY GRATEFUL!
Don’t be discouraged, we need not wait until our kids are 33! Here are 5 things we can do to instill, plant, nourish and cultivate gratefulness in our children.
1. Slow down on the choices. I have found parents use choices in an attempt to control kids emotions. We accidentally foster entitlement when we offer choice, after choice, after choice.
2. Model gratefulness: We forget how very, very fortunate we are simply by having a roof over our heads, food to eat and some money in the bank. You can go to www.100people.org and together and gain perspective on the gifts we have.
3. Giving gifts: Have your kids pick a couple people in your family to buy gifts for with their money. Show them how to wrap a gift, then let them wrap the one they bought. If it needs to be mailed, guide them through the whole process of packaging it, addressing it, taking it to the post office. Avoid giving lectures like, “See, it’s not as easy as you think!” and let them experience the joys and sorrows of giving, wrapping and sending, and then waiting for a thank you note.
4. Peaks and Pits: At mealtime once a day, or once a week, go around the table and share your peaks and pits. Verbalizing our highs and lows helps others grapple with their highs and lows. In a safe space we can have a good chuckle at things like – tripping in front of our friends, making a flub in our public speaking, or having a green lettuce leaf in our teeth. We also remember that simple things like – a sunny day for Fall Fest, or no traffic on the way to work, or a higher grade this week on the spelling test are all things to celebrate and be grateful for.
5. Service: Author of the fabulous parenting book, “The Good News About Bad Behavior” Katherine Lewis, shared a story about a terrible trip to Disney she took with her kids. They acted entitled and whiny and selfish. Instead of lecturing, Katherine and their husband booked a service trip the very next year where the kids volunteered instead of consumed.
Tis the season of gratefulness, your, theirs and ours. Gratefulness is a quiet, patient and peaceful source of energy. Take the time to cultivate it in your house, in your heart and with your kids.
*Originally published in the November 2019 Glover Park Gazette