We talk to many parents who tell us their kids are not grateful. Not only do their children expect to be fed and clothed, but they expect to eat whatever they want and be clothed with the latest brands. They also expect to be given computers and phones, and signed up for (and “taxi-ed” to!) all the extra-curriculars they want to participate in. In the midst of all this there appears to be no sense of gratitude!
“How do we get them to be more thankful?” is a common question at our workshops. We respond to this question with three suggestions that have helped parents see a significant change in fairly short order. See if any of these might help you:
First, kids who experience hard work learn to appreciate it from others. You can raise the bar on your child’s responsibility concerning chores and finances! For example, a child who has been given the responsibility of preparing and cleaning up a meal begins to understand how much work and planning is involved in mealtime. Once that child knows how much time and effort is needed, he is much more inclined to be grateful when he gets served a meal. A child who is required to use his own hard-earned money to get the toys he wants (instead of just automatically getting them from you) is more likely to feel grateful when he is given gifts. Children who are given responsibilities tend to better appreciate the gifts and blessings that come their way unearned, or undeserved.
Second, kids develop grateful hearts when they feel appreciated. Kids don’t learn to thank others if they are rarely thanked themselves. Finding ways for growing kids to be truly responsible (needed) for household chores will position them to be the recipients of gratitude from others. Once you position them…then energetically THANK THEM! (For example, when your children help with a meal let them know how appreciative you are and why it is a blessing to your family. See the ABCs of Affirmation)
Finally, kids learn gratefulness when parents regularly model it. This sounds obvious, but it’s easy to miss – instead of showing gratitude for jobs or careers, parents often complain. Instead of expressing thankfulness for the blessing of family and safety, we tend to take these things for granted. Ask yourself this question: “When was the last time my child saw and heard my heartfelt expression of gratitude for my work outside the home?”
Let’s summarize these ideas to get you started down the road of building grateful hearts in your family:
- Give kids responsibility for their lives, and opportunities to serve the needs of others.
- Express your appreciation when they serve. Habitually thank them and affirm when they help out, and you’ll develop grateful kids.
- Model gratitude in your own life so your kids see it! Let your children hear you being thankful. “So thankful for air conditioning on this hot day!” or, when the recipient of a carpool ride, “Thank you so much for giving Billy a ride to soccer tonight- it made life so much easier for us.”
“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
1 Thessalonians 5:18
Struggling with entitlement in your home? Dig into our online course The Entitlement Fix: Growing Hard Work and Gratitude in Your Kids.