For the past few weeks I’ve been taking an informal survey among parents who have well-adjusted kids (of all ages) who possess an attitude of gratitude. I’ve asked the question, “What are purposeful, practical ways you’ve tried to train your kids to be grateful?”
Here are several common themes – and a few additions of my own.
- Travel: expose your kids to different cultures. This will provide perspective that “our way” isn’t the only way to live. Kids will also inherently understand that life isn’t as bad as they might have originally thought.
- Have your kids spend time hanging around with grateful and wise adults. Invite wise and trusted grownups over for dinner or a BBQ on Saturday afternoon. Role models are significant; surrounding your kids with grateful role models makes sense.
- Teach gratitude rigorously. Point thankful spirits out in other people. Kneel down and look your kids in the eyes and tell them they did a good job thanking someone else. When they fail to say ‘please’ or ‘thank you,’ lovingly correct and guide them to respond with appropriate words right then and there. Don’t miss the teachable moment.
- Confront entitlement immediately. Snuff out any spirit of whining or an attitude of “I deserve this” in your kids. Be kind, but firm. Simply do not tolerate it.
- Make events and outings special, but not assumed. When kids assume special events or trips will always be there, entitlement begins to creep in.
- Model it. It may seem obvious, but it can be easy for mom and dad to forget that modeling is the most significant way to guide our children. Eliminate sarcasm or complaining in your conversation. Remember: more is caught than taught.
- Read Scripture together. The Bible has numerous verses about gratitude. Consider reading from the Psalms regularly or before dinner.
- Minimize (or eliminate) time with television, advertisements and commercials. The goal of marketing and advertising is to make you discontent with what you currently have. Studies reveal that, regardless of income level, there is a direct correlation between the amount of hours people watch television with the amount of money they spend each month.
- Give and serve as a family. Seek out ways to serve as a family (and not just around the holidays). Whether its for a few hours at the local soup kitchen or homeless shelter on a Saturday morning or a week-long mission trip, it builds memories, allows for healthy modeling and provides perspective that breeds thankfulness.
- Find the right balance between work and play. Communicate to your entire family that there will be times where we will play hard and there will be times where we will work hard. Expect both. Create age-appropriate chores – and schedule fun times to make memories together.
- Refrain from buying everything your kids want. Pushing the cart through the toy section at Target can be dangerous, but don’t give in. At appropriate times, bless your children, but don’t give in to every request for something. The worst thing we can do as parents is to give our kids everything they think they want – when they want it.
- Refuse the comparison trap. Refuse to allow your kids to compare themselves with other kids, especially regarding possessions and ‘their stuff.’ The root of discontentment is comparison.
- Watch the language. Have a keen ear for phrases like “I need that doll,” “I want that toy,” “She has ____ and I don’t…” or any other form of whining. If you hear it in the grocery aisle or from the backseat of the van, address it immediately. This includes non-verbals like pouting or smirking.
What about you? What else would you add to the list?