Raising Grateful Kids

It can happen before you know it. Even when the warning signs are there, the best of moms can miss them. Until. Until some phrase or whine that reeks of the “gimmes” makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up and you consider removing every unnecessary item from your child’s room to teach a lesson! Then you wake up and realize you have no place to store all the stuff. Yikes.

Know Your Enemy

We have to know what we are dealing with here, Moms.

Our children are precious.

Entitlement is a beast.

It’s a little gremlin living inside each of us and, and given the opportunity, this little beast will grow and grow with fangs that cut into the skin of any gift-giver. We must make every effort not to feed the gremlin. It can smell when we have the food it needs to survive – guilt, fatigue, insecurity. The Beast knows when you are feeling guilty because you’ve worked a lot lately or you’ve been in a season of needing to focus on one child a little more intensely. When one of your Littles gets whiney or just plain foul at the zoo and you give in to the $20 stuffed animal just to make the noise stop, you have just given the Beast protein. Our own insecurity and “keeping up with Pinterest” is a danger zone and likely feeds the Beast way more than we intend when we do elaborate parties for the 4 year-old — because what in the world are we setting ourselves up for for graduation? And, here we are at the “Season of Giving.” Our little precious ones want to even put together a LIST of all their gimmes. Now, the Beast of Entitlement has been given a Monster drink.

Be Proactive

Ads and media are relentless. Plus, we want to give our kids a fulfilled, wonderful childhood, right? So, what are we going to do? Let’s just try to start strong, shall we!?

Giving. Giving is an energy drainer for the Entitlement Beast. The phrase “Charity starts in the home” is often misused. I have heard it as an excuse to not be generous in their giving, but it is actually meant to say that the teaching of generosity begins at home. I teach my girls to be charitable. This can be in the form of a sponsored child through an organization like Compassion International, giving away toys or clothes, etc. We have even “sacrificed” a gift to give away. {And, really, was it even? We have so much.} By raising our kids to be givers in a world that promotes taking, we are raising world changers.

Raising Grateful Children

Service. As soon as they can, let’s get our children serving others. It’s so good for all of us to look outside our own little world and see the needs of others.

Work. This is a big one. I believe that just because we can give something to our kids, doesn’t necessarily mean we should. There are some things that are just extra. It is super important for kids to learn early the satisfaction of a job well-done. Earning a little money and saving for a coveted toy, for example. Even if it takes months. Work is not a punishment. By doing extra chores or working for the neighbors, earning and saving, we are allowing our kids to build confidence in themselves. If they don’t do a job well enough to commensurate with ability? This is a good time to learn to “do it well the first time.” Work is good! Delayed gratification is a lesson for us all to learn again and again!

Expectation. Set the expectation. I always found that this helped my girls. Before we would go certain places, I would just let them know ahead of time that we weren’t going to purchase extra stuffed animal souvenirs and candy and whatnot. Then, I would stick to it.  Now, on certain occasions, of course, we would get special treats. (Extra tip: I can be pretty frugal, and have even been known to take a trip to Claire’s or whatever to pick out a cutesy little Princess Necklace for BOGO 1/2 off, so that when we got to the Princess on Ice show, our souvenirs were already being worn! I’m not saying don’t ever get fun things for the kids!) The point is, be grateful for what we get to DO and what we HAVE.

Gratitude. Oh. Kryptonite to the Beast. Be relentless in the quest to raise grateful kids, Parents. Relentless. In our house, we try to teach our girls that we are really only entitled to a few things – unconditional love, protection, basic physical needs, education. We have so much. Everything we need and a whole bunch of what we want. It is all a gift. During Thanksgiving season, I would ask the girls, when people say, “We are thankful for… To whom are they thankful?” I mean, really? It’s a good question. Let’s give gratitude and know to whom we are thanking. When my girls were little, bedtime prayers would be a long list of “Thank you, God, for Mommy, Daddy, Barbie, Legos, my pillow, my socks…” Yes. Thank God for all that. They will mature in understanding and those prayers will change to being thankful for more intangible things. Now, at Christmas, there will be material things. As I’m writing, I’m reminded that we have been so negligent in recent years to send “Thank You” cards for gifts, and I hate that. It really is such an important practice. I think I have slacked because I fell in to the trap of thinking “I already taught that.” Bad. It’s continuous.  Let’s purpose to send “Thank You” notes this year!

When the Enemy Attacks

“I want Elsaaaaaaaaaaa!” “Mommmmm! But I want some Cooooookkkke!” “I would never drive that old, junkie car.”

Y’all, my heart rate is rising just having typed those sentences. Nothing makes my skin crawl like adding whiney syllables to words, except for, maybe, pretentiousness.

The Beast knows if the whining is a point of weakness. For some of us, the moment a whine starts, it just strengthens my resolve.

My girls are pretty grateful for what is given to them. They have shown gratitude for the opportunity to work to earn money for something they are saving for. Yay! This is thrilling to see in your kids. But. They are far from perfect, as is their momma.  I have actually heard that “junkie car” statement come out of one of my kids’ mouths and others like it from time to time. Sends me over the dadgum edge. “I guess you would drive whatever gets you from Point A to Point B! You know it is not a requirement in the Parent Book of Whatever to give your teenager a car, right? I bet you that person is quite grateful not to be out walking in this blood-boiling heat, don’t you think?!” A fine parenting moment, right? Then, we got home, I got a little dry erase board to write out “Five Things a Car Is For.” I’m not kidding. That’s what we called it because I was crazy and didn’t have a snappy title. It wasn’t going on the Pinterest! I don’t remember all the things on the list, something about “take us to work safely” and “start up” were on the list. “Be a pretty garage ornament” or “To make me look cool or wealthy” did not make the list. I don’t recall this ever coming up again.

I just couldn’t take it. The face of Entitlement looked an awful lot like my pretty girls that day, and I was not going to stand for it.


How do you do it? How do you cultivate an “Attitude of Gratitude” in your home?

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