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Moms Talk: Greedy or Grateful Kids?

Yeah, yeah, we all know Thanksgiving is about more than the turkey, corn bread and the big football game. But in an age where 4 year-olds tote iPods and tweens sport fancier cell phones than their folks, how does one instill gratitude in their kids?

I heard a boy complain to his mother, "But, Mom, I’m the ooooonly one in my class who doesn’t have an iPad!" I glanced back, expecting to see a teenager with shaggy hair and braces, but instead I saw a child no older than 8 years old. iPad, really?

"Look, kid, I don’t even own an iPad," I wanted to snap at the boy. But I didn’t, of course, and went back to minding my own business. Later that night, I went home, patting myself on the back that my children weren’t asking for such ridiculous things. But the minute I walked in the door, my son insisted that the perfectly good shoes I bought him just weeks before simply wouldn’t do anymore. "Are they too small," I asked him skeptically. No, they were not. But a boy at school had new Kicks that were getting quite a bit of attention, and, well, now he wanted those instead.

Ahh, what a world we live in. We chide the generations behind us for being so greedy and ungrateful, but really, are we doing a much better job? After all, we just had to have that bigger house, the one with the granite counter tops, the pool with the waterslide and the ocean view. How can we teach our kids gratitude when we’re barely grasping it ourselves?

With Thanksgiving approaching, I found myself especially troubled by our society’s lack of gratitude. I poked around and asked other moms what they do to instill a thankful spirit in their kids. Here are a few ideas they came up with:

  1. Make a Gratitude Tree. This can be done using a variety of material, from real tree branches to a plastic tree. Have your children cut out leaves from construction paper. They must write something they are thankful for before hanging the leaf on the tree. This can be done all year long or just the month of Thanksgiving.
  2. Make a Gratitude Journal. Purchase a journal for each of your children (check craft stores or department stores) and have them write in it each night before bed. Then share thoughts with the family over dinner.
  3. Reach Out. We took my kids to an event last week and served the homeless breakfast. It was quite an eye opener for them, and for me as well. I explained to them on the way there that for many of the people who would be coming, this might be the only meal of their day, or maybe even their week. We drove home somber and thankful for simple things like a warm bed and a hot shower.
  4. Get in the Practice of Writing Thank You Notes. In an age of entitlement, nothing is nicer than a hand written thank you note. Even preschool children can scribble their name or a picture. Some parents go above and beyond and take a picture of the child with the gift. A few simple words can go a long way.
  5. Say It. Start by practicing your “thank you's” everywhere you go, whether it be the doctor’s office, the grocery store, the hairdresser or your kids’ school. When they see you saying it, they’ll start saying it, too.

How do you encourage your kids to be grateful, not just at Thanksgiving, but all year long? We’d love to hear from you!

MFairless November 23, 2011 at 11:37 PM
In our home, we've ALWAYS taught our kids about being grateful for what they have and that it's not all about them. Every year my sister hosts Thanksgiving at her house, I host Christmas at my house. This year a friend of mine posted a comment on Facebook that said "since my son is away for Thanksgiving this year serving our country, we will be hosting a Marine at dinner in his place". It gave an email to their Commander if you wanted to host a Marine too. So, without hesitation, I sent an email offering our home to 3 Marines! Here's where the gratitude comes in! Not thinking that my sister would dare turn the Marines down, I sent her a txt saying that I would be bringing 3 Marines to dinner with us! Oh boy...that did not go over well! I didn't know that my sister would have her only child's fiance's family over this year! My sister said there wasn't enough room and she was too stressed to have anymore people over. Well, that's not how I do things and that's not how I want my children to live their lives. So I told my entire family that we wouldn't be joining them this year for Thanksgiving because we already invited the Marines and we would NOT go back on our word. I wanted to show my children how grateful our family is for the sacrifices that our military goes through and that it's NOT all about us! If you want to teach your children about gratitude you have to first set the example!
Sheri Noga MA November 24, 2011 at 06:50 PM
One essential ingredient in raising a grateful child is to not march along with current cultural attitudes which encourage over-indulgence of kids. Children thrive when they have time with parents and appropriate discipline; they do poorly when they are given too much and allowed to behave inappropriately. Treating a child like they are the center of the universe is becoming a cultural norm, which is creating a generation of entitled children. Parents need to have the guts to do what they know is right for their kids. Sheri Noga, MA www.grateful-child.com
Karen Koczwara November 27, 2011 at 07:36 AM
Good points and ideas! I agree that we have to start by setting a good example and also by not giving in to their every whim. I still have hope for our children's generation but we must pave the way!

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