Parenting Solutions: Ungrateful (page 2)
Is unaware of or insensitive to simple gestures of generosity, financial support, or kindness; is unappreciative of what he has; needs constant reminders to say thank you; is oblivious of simple everyday joys
The Change to Parent For
Your child learns habits that nurture gratitude, appreciation, and charity, and becomes more appreciative of his everyday blessings that surround him.
Question: "I try to give our son everything he needs, but instead of being grateful, he only seems to want more. Is there something I can do to help him be more appreciative?"
Answer: Kids' spirits of gratitude are developed through real experiences that help them see how appreciative others are for his kind gestures. So put away that wallet and find opportunities for your child to give to others so that he can feel and appreciate the recipient's gratitude. He might take homemade cookies to a nursing home, rake leaves for an elderly neighbor, deliver children's books to a pediatric ward, visit a lonely relative or friend. Insist that at least one day a week, your child is the giver instead of the getter. That one little switch may do wonders for raising his gratitude quotient.
Of course we want our kids to be happy, and we like being able to give them what they want. But have you noticed that sometimes our best intentions backfire? Instead of our kids being grateful for what they are given, they are disappointed, or always seem to want "more"? In all fairness, there are a number of factors that work against our kids' being appreciative of the good things in life. For starters: relentless consumption-driven media that push kid to think they need more; a fast-paced lifestyle that leaves little time to help kids count their blessings; and the sometimes overwhelming impact of troubling news that focuses on the bad parts of life instead of helping kids appreciate the good. Or sometimes it's our guilt for not being home enough or our competitive instincts that compel us to keep up with the Joneses that drive us to lavish our kids with the latest and best of everything.
University of California at Davis and University of Miami:
Researchers find that being thankful may be the key to increasing your child's happiness and well-being.93 You read that correctly. For the past ten years, two professors, Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough, studied several hundred people who were involved in their simple gratitude experiments. One ten-week study asked the participants to use a journal four days a week to write down five things they were grateful for that had happened in the previous week. A second group of participants was asked to list ways they were better off than others as a way to appreciate their blessings. The psychologists then looked at medical and psychological tests of each participant prior to the study and then again ten weeks later. Those simple gratitude exercises made those participants feel 25 percent happier. But that's not all: they felt better about their lives, slept better, and felt healthier and less stressed; they were also more optimistic about the future, less materialistic, and more likely to help others. Those results were not hard to achieve. Better yet, you can help your child reap similar benefits just by encouraging him to use some of the gratitude rituals listed later in this entry.
Whatever the cause, there is one crucial reason we must change for our kids' sake. Compelling research now proves that the happiest children are the ones who feel a sense of appreciation for life—and that's regardless of their wealth or personal circumstances. Those studies show that because kids feel grateful, they are actually more joyful, determined, optimistic, and resilient; less stressed; and even healthier. So if you hope your child can achieve these traits (and what parent doesn't), then you must replace any hint of an ungrateful attitude with gratitude. The good news is that there are also simple proven strategies to make that change happen for your child.
One Simple Solution
Writing thank-you notes is a simple, proven way to boost gratitude, but to help your kids understand that you expect them to use that practice, enforce one simple family rule: "You must write the thank-you note first, and then you may use the gift." A young child can dictate his comments and only needs to sign his name. School-age kids should use this rule from the Etiquette and Leadership Institute in Athens, Georgia: the total number of sentences in a thank-you note should be half the child's age.94 So a ten-year-old should be expected to write a minimum of five complete sentences.
Signs and Symptoms
Here are the top nine symptoms of ingratitude in kids. Every kid slips every now and then, but how many signs are typical of your child's daily behavior?
- Bad manners: needs constant reminders to say thank you or show his appreciation
- Envy: wants what others have, envies others' possessions
- Lack of appreciation: takes for granted your daily kind and thoughtful gestures
- Huge sense of entitlement: feels he deserves to have luxuries or privileges
- Dissatisfaction: always seems to want "more," "better," or "newer"
- Materialism: values only material things, brand names, or the "latest"
- Self-centeredness: is unwilling to reciprocate with gifts or kind acts to others
- Ungraciousness: acts disappointed with presents, blurts out "I didn't want this"
- Thoughtlessness: doesn't consider other person's feelings or the thought or effort that went into her gesture
Step 1. Early Intervention
- Model gratitude. Kids learn gratitude by seeing others display appreciation in everyday, unplanned moments. How often do your kids see you convey your appreciation with hugs, words, or small notes to others? How often do you tell your kids how much you appreciate them? Tune up your attitude of gratitude so that your kids are more likely to copy your example.
- Set limits. Having too much "stuff" squelches appreciation. So fight the tendency to overindulge your child with too many things. Always giving kids what they want does not help them learn to be grateful and appreciative of what they have.
- Thank your kids. Don't overlook your kids' daily thoughtful deeds. Just be sure to tell them what they did that you appreciate so that they are more likely to copy your example and send their own "appreciation messages" to others. "Josh, thanks for remembering to take out the trash. I appreciate your helpfulness." "Thanks for giving me a moment alone, Hannah. I had a hard day, and I appreciate your thoughtfulness."
- Teach gratitude with books. Here are a few great books to start that discussion: For younger kids: Yes, Please! No, Thank You! by Valerie Wheeler and Glin Dibley; Emily's Magic Words: Please, Thank You, and More, by Cindy Post Senning, Peggy Post, and Leo Landry
- Expose your kids to the less fortunate. Face-to-face experiences can go a long way in helping kids appreciate their blessings. So find ways for you and your child to do charitable work (playing with kids in a homeless shelter, reading to the blind, building low-cost housing, or delivering meals for the bedridden).
For older kids: Giving Thanks: A Native American Good Morning Message, by Jake Swamp; Lady in the Box, by Ann McGovern; The Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein; Focus on the Good Stuff: The Power of Appreciation, by Mike Robbins; Gratefully Yours, by Jane Buchanan
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