Gratitude is a concept that we hear little about. Perhaps it is because people haven’t focused on what they have in life instead of what they don’t have in life. Much of what we can be grateful we take for granted instead of believing we are entitled to have. By traveling outside our small spheres of life we can see the contrast between what we have the U.S. that people in other countries don’t have. A very short list:
- Freedom to choose our partners.
- Power to elect (or “fire”) our governmental representatives.
- Wide selections of consumer items and foods available all the time in stores.
- Consistent infrastructure in our communities.
- K-12 education without tuition or fees
- Adequate housing and food.
- Beliefs without fears of reprisals or controls.
I could go on, but you get the idea. I have come to the conclusion that we don’t express our gratitude for what we have in this country often enough. Far too many people believe they are entitled to what we can be grateful for that others around the world risk their lives to come here to get for themselves.
Parents instill entitlement in their children by giving too much, over-buying clothing (MUST have the brand or style of the moment), having “unlimited” spending for gifts (with the child, surrounded by the pile of new stuff, saying or thinking, “Is that all?”), and having an unlimited open pocket for discretionary spending.
Gratitude is something that evolves over time and is learned from those around the child. Adults are the role models for children, a lesson that many often forget. What a child SEES or EXPERIENCES rather than HEARS is what the child emulates. The child must learn to view the world from another’s perspective, but when there is no contrast with what the child has at home, gaining that other perspective will be slow in development.
When parents are selfish and “take” from others and the world, the child learns that is what acceptable to the parents. When the parents “give” to others and the child sees it in action, preferably followed by discussions, the child will find ways to also “give”. Kindness, doing things for other just because you think of them, is a way to demonstrate gratitude. How many times a day are we kind to others, giving compliments or praise for no reason at all? I find, that no matter how many times I praise or do a good deed for others, I feel better about myself as a result.
Some ideas for parents:
- Do you volunteer at church or in the community in some way?
- Do you volunteer at a school, as a booster for an athletic team or sponsor an event?
- Does the family donate out-grown clothing or toys to a center?
- Do you express gratitude for what you have, for what your child brings to your lives? If so, how often?
Repetition is necessary for a child to learn anything, and the more parents show gratitude, the more likely the child will learn it. There are many things that parents can do to bring gratitude and happiness into their lives and the lives of their children. One of the most important is being the best parent you can be. Visit Parents Teach Kids to find ways to improve your skills.