Parenting Vivian | 04 Jan 2011 07:13 pm

Teach an Attitude of Gratitude

Brenda arrived at school to pick up Brandi. Brandi greeted her with “Did you bring me my snack?”

Before Mom could even utter a response, she continued “Did you get the invitations for my birthday party? Did you order the favors? Did the pony man call you back?”

Mom, feeling drilled by her daughter’s rapid fire questions, paused, looked at her with complete exasperation and asked: “Brandi, do you see the word ‘S-L-A-V-E’ written across my shirt? When did you become my supervisor?”

Without even filling out an application form, Brenda must have inadvertently joined the ranks of many other parents across America who are feeling overworked and under-appreciated by their children. It can be a thankless job at times, especially if our children do not understand or share in the day-to-day management of a household.

Little by little young Brandi had picked up the notion that mom had been placed on earth to make her serve her and make her happy. How did this happen?

Even at an early age there are many things kids can do for themselves. It is important that we let them struggle with these tasks even if the job is not done as well as an adult might.

When parents do for kids instead of letting them do for themselves, some kids start to believe that they are not capable while others develop the belief that they are so special that others will serve them.

When we do more than our share of work, we raise kids who feel entitled to more and more. Parents often fall into the trap of believing that their kids should be grateful for parental “sacrifices” when most of the time they don’t even understand our efforts as sacrifices in the first place.

Time for a Change

This can change once we teach our children the requirements behind our efforts. How can our children learn to appreciate what it takes to do a job if we don’t involve them in the process?

What are the chances that “Little Miss Birthday Girl” would appreciate Mom’s efforts a little more if this mother handed some of those steps back to her daughter with guidance? Would giving her some of the responsibility also prepare her for tasks requiring planning skills in the future?

Gratitude is Caught, Not Taught

Genuine gratitude is caught by children when they are either doing or when they are doing without, not when we do for them, or when we force them to express their thanks.

By shifting some or all the responsibility to those who benefit from the effort that goes into them, genuine gratitude for what others do for us comes more naturally. More than just money, presents or things, effort inspires appreciation in both directions. The giver and the receiver understand the requirements for each role.

Plus, it sure beats what we tend to do instead: ask for, wait for, or force a “thank you!”

Bottom line: Wise parents increase the chances that their children will develop the attitude of gratitude by providing real life experiences of effort. Only then can their children learn how to genuinely appreciate the efforts of others.

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