When I think of an ungrateful kid, Veruca Salt from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate factory instantly comes to mind. Her infamous story of bratty rich kid turned bad egg is the ultimate example of how not to raise a grateful kid. Veruca’s dad gave her everything she ever wanted. When Wonka wouldn’t give her a golden goose, she sang, “Don’t care how, I want it now!” even as she slid down the bad egg trash bin.
I recoil when I see these ungrateful tendencies surface in my own children. They turn privileges into rights, requesting cell phones and tablets as if they are essential to maintaining life. The morning brings complaints of, “Where are my jeans? Why aren’t they clean? I need more clothes!” Let’s not start on the dishes sitting on the table or the shoes in the middle of the hallway.
In Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World, Kristen Welch addresses this perplexing parenting issue. She quotes psychiatrist Dan Kindlon, “We give our kids too much and demand too little of them.” I am so very guilty of this. You can draw a straight line from their ungrateful tendencies to my parenting.
Kristen’s book help me nail down three changes I can make today to have grateful kids tomorrow.
Teach them the value of work and money.
If I am honest, it is easier to clean the house myself than train and monitor my children to do it. Do you know what this philosophy got me? Lazy kids, that’s what! It is also easier to buy them what they need (and want) than to teach them the principles of personal finance. This results in kids with the gimmies—gimme that book, gimme that toy! Welch says:
If we hand out money freely, most kids will take it, and it won’t take long for them to acquire the habit of keeping their hands out for more. If we require a little sweat and hard work, we are flipping a switch and beginning to do away with the “you owe me” mentality.
It takes effort, but I am making changes to flip that switch. I am trying out a new system to teach the girls how to work for and manage money. We have a jar with thirty one-dollar bills in it. If the kids complete their household chores, they keep the dollar. If they fail to do it (and do it well), I take a dollar away at bedtime (adapted from Kay Wyma’s book, Cleaning House). The truth is, I don’t like to take things from my kids. This has been a practice in discipline for me, too. We are just a few weeks in, but I already see positive changes in my kids. The next phase will be teaching them to give, save, and spend responsibly.
On this journey of trying to raise grateful kids in an entitled world, we want our children to understand the difference between needs and wants, know how to save a buck, live frugally, and have the means to be generous when the opportunity presents itself. (Kristen Welch, Raising Grateful Kids)
Expose them to the hard things.
I want my kids to enjoy their life. In that pursuit, I often shelter them from the hard things—poverty, human trafficking, societal cruelty. They gain very little perspective for their blessings if they never see how hard life can be. Compared to their classmates with the latest smartphone, designer lunch boxes, and lessons of all kinds after school, my kids may feel a little left behind. But after feeding the homeless downtown on a cold Saturday morning, my kids realize how very good they have it.
I do not intend to make them watch the news every night to see the horror we live in. I do, however, want to prayerfully and strategically expose them to the truth around us. Yes, their classmates have smartphones; but some of their classmates don’t have enough food for dinner tonight. I want them to realize the two dollars they spend on their school lunch is more than most families around the world have for the entire day. Perspective will foster gratitude.
Of course, the best way to instill a sense of gratitude in our children is to model it ourselves. Character traits are caught more than they are taught. I certainly need improvement in the area of gratitude. I am the queen of looking sideways for my standard of living. Social media doesn’t help. I remember sitting at home this summer watching vacation posts flood my Facebook feed. I grew a little green. The cure for envy is gratitude.
When entitlement’s poison begins to infect our hearts, gratitude is the antidote. (Kristen Welch, Raising Grateful Kids)
I don’t have to set up Pinterest-perfect activities to teach my children gratitude. A family gratitude journal would help all of us recognize our blessings. I can also guard against verbalizing comparisons and wish lists, and instead, verbalize my gratitude for God’s great gifts.
None of these changes will result in an instant fix. But, collectively over time, I hope to see gratitude grow in their tender hearts.
Would you like to join this movement of raising grateful kids in an entitled world? Grab a copy of Kristen’s book here. You can read the first chapter here. Find a few friends and go through the book together using the discussion guide. Most important, begin to cultivate your own sense of gratitude. Together, we can create a shift in our culture from entitlement to gratitude!
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