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8 Ways To Raise Grateful Kids

Help kids develop an attitude of gratitude so that they will grow up to be happier, more positive, and more content with their lives.

As 2020 comes to an end, it’s time to start thinking about our goals and intentions for 2021 — not just for ourselves but also for our family. One resolution in particular that we would like to suggest — teach kids to be more grateful and less entitled. 

“Children become entitled when they always get what they ask for, when parents say ‘yes’ more than they say ‘no,’” says Maribel Dionisio, a parenting and relationship expert, author, and founder of the Love Institute, a pioneering company equipping couples, parents, and individuals with skills on how to have fulfilling relationships with those dearest to them. “When children are raised with everything handed to them, they grow up to become demanding, high-maintenance adults who are not equipped to handle life when things don’t go their way,” she adds.  

On the other hand, when children learn to be appreciative, responsible, and not take things for granted, they have better relationships with other people, can empathize more, are easier to please, and become generally happier in their later years. 

Below are some ways you can reinforce the importance of gratitude:

  1. Be mindful of your words and actions. You may be feeling proud that you are not entitling your children because you do not buy them every toy that they ask for; but an entitlement mentality can be shaped in other ways, some of which you may not even be aware of, such as: 
    • Attributing other people’s actions to their character and not because of outside forces. When your kids complain that someone took the last cookie without asking, don’t immediately say “Yes, he’s a bad boy, don’t be like him.” This teaches children to be judgemental and quickly blame others for their misfortunes.

      A better way to manage such situations would be to ask your children to think about what the other person may be going through or how they might be feeling, i.e. “Maybe he took the cookie because he didn’t get to eat lunch and is really hungry.” This act of empathizing makes kids stop immediately seeing others as bad, and makes them more grateful for their circumstances (i.e. at least they are not THAT hungry).
    • Overprotecting and overpraising them. The first will make them dependent on you, the second will make them feel that they can do no wrong. 
    • Jumping through hoops to make sure their path to success is paved for them, so they never have to work hard to get what they want. 

2. Set a good example. Kids learn a lot from watching their parents. So model gratitude every chance you get, such as offering a sincere “Thank you” to the person who delivers your packages or making it a point to share little things that you are grateful for during casual conversations. 

3. Be encouraging and positive. “When you catch your children doing good or beyond what is expected, praise them for it; don’t always focus on the things they did not do,” says Maribel. For example, if your toddler packed away four out of his seven toys, don’t scold him for not doing a perfect job; instead, tell him thank you for doing that, then remind or offer to help him pack the remaining items away. This reinforces the positive behavior and lets them know that what they do (no matter how small) is appreciated. 

4. Put things in perspective. Talk to your kids about those who are less fortunate, like the owner of their favorite restaurant who had to close shop because of the pandemic, or the people who lost their homes because of natural disasters. Understanding that not everyone has the same advantages will help them develop compassion for others and gratitude for their own privileges.

5. Let them do chores. Part of feeling gratitude is being aware of the effort someone else went through to give us something. One way to let your child experience this effort is to involve them in household tasks, such as making the bed, folding the laundry, or helping prepare meals.  “Chores reduce entitlement because it helps children see the value of work,” Maribel points out. “In addition, children learn to be responsible, feel more confident, discover their strengths, and see the value in their work.” 

6. Show them how to find the money. It can be hard for children to understand why they can’t just buy everything they want if they have never paid for anything. “Give your children opportunities to manage money, whether it’s giving them an allowance, helping them start their own business, or even paying them for doing extra chores,” says Mariblel. “When they see the time and effort it takes to be able to buy a new item of clothing or new gadget, they won’t feel entitled about money.”

7. Establish boundaries. “Do not let your children get away with everything,” Maribel instructs. “Have rules, and explain the importance of these rules so that your children cooperate. And if they deviate from rules, counter with logical and natural consequences, not with screaming, shouting, or spanking because these will only make them resent you.”

8. Cultivate a good relationship with your child. All of the above tips require you to be able to talk to your children openly, honestly, and without judgement. To achieve this, Maribel suggests the following ways:

  • Set aside one-on-one time for each child, at least 20 minutes a day. Make the conversation light and easy-going so that he or she opens up to you about what’s on their minds, and you in turn can share stories that impart the values of empathy, gratitude, and kindness. 
  • Set aside one-on-one time for each child, at least 20 minutes a day. Make the conversation light and easy-going so that he or she opens up to you about what’s on their minds, and you in turn can share stories that impart the values of empathy, gratitude, and kindness. 
  • Set aside one-on-one time for each child, at least 20 minutes a day. Make the conversation light and easy-going so that he or she opens up to you about what’s on their minds, and you in turn can share stories that impart the values of empathy, gratitude, and kindness. 

The only way children will learn gratitude (along with other positive values) is by having a relationship with them that is open, honest, and managed by boundaries. “When we do away with limitations and give our children everything they want because we want their lives to be easy, it is OUR lives that become complicated,” says Maribel. “On the other hand, when children feel loved, respected, and secure, they will not misbehave or feel entitled. They will want to return those loving feelings to you, absorb the values you impart,  and do everything to make you happy.”

If your children are struggling with strong emotions or if you need advice on how to manage their wellbeing and happiness, feel free to drop us a line on our FB Messenger chat helpline. We are open 24/7 and the service is free, secure, and confidential. 

For more information about the Love Institute, visit their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/theloveinstituteph/

— Written by Jaclyn Lutanco-Chua of MindNation