“Mommy, I want one of those! Now!”
“How come I didn’t get what they got?
“You mean that’s all the presents?”
Whining like this can sure cramp the holiday spirit. Nobody likes to feel like the gifts they give are “not enough” or “not good enough.”
Kids who whine about gifts need an attitude shift into gratitude gear.
A Need For Gratitude
Ungrateful kids are no fun to be around. But that’s not all: they actually may be making themselves sick and unhappy. Health writer Ocean Robbins writes:
“Gratitude doesn’t just make things feel better – it also makes them get better. According to recent research, gratitude is good for your physical, emotional, and mental health. People who express more gratitude have fewer aches and pains, better sleep, and stronger mental clarity.”
But as you and all other parents know, young children are naturally self-centered. How can you help your kids grow past the “gimme, gimme” stage and into “thank you” mode?
Tip #1: Show Your Kids How Gratitude Is Done
Your own gratitude attitude shapes your child's. Amplify your thanks; mute your complaints. Click To Tweet
What if your life seems to hold little to be thankful for? Start small:
- Are you breathing?
- Do you have dishes to wash—that had food on them?
- Is your child by your side?
- Do you have a friend?
- Are you living indoors in winter?
Thank people—out loud—when they do something nice for you.
- Thank the Wal-Mart customer service guy who helped you return something.
- Thank your daughter for telling you a story from day care.
- Did Aunt Agnes knit you an ugly sweater? Thank her for spending so much time on you.
Your children are watching you. What you do will mold what they do.
Tip #2: Start Thankfulness Rituals
You have a routine for getting ready for work or school. You have a routine for going to bed. So have a routine for being thankful. Here are some ideas:
- Say thank you—to God, to the cook, to McDonalds—before meals.
- At bedtime, have your child name three things she’s thankful for.
- Every Saturday morning, name 3 “wins”—3 things that went well in the previous week.
- Always create a “thank you” (a note, a picture, a phone call) when a gift is received.
- Memorize a thankfulness poem, prayer , or song, to share at day’s end—or beginning. (The thankfulness song below is from one of our staff’s favorite videos: Madame Blueberry: A Lesson in Thankfulness. It’s fun for the whole family!)
Tip #3: Let Them Help
Remember when you began to appreciate what your parents did for you? It was probably when you became a parent yourself, right?
Your kids are the same. They will be more grateful if they understand the “cost” of a gift or act of service. (But they don’t need a guilt trip! That’s just mama-whining.) Try these ideas on if they fit your child’s age:
- Let kids help shop. Show them how choosing one more expensive item means having to put back two cheaper items.
- Have your kids help with everyday tasks: preparing food, wiping counters, carrying the diaper bag. It’s a glimpse into what is done for them all the time.
- Teach them to make gifts. They get a taste of the time and effort of crafting a gift and the hope that it will be appreciated.
Letting children experience these serving behaviors can eventually open their eyes to how much they have been served. And, therefore, how much they can be thankful for.
Tip # 4: Be Patient
As we’ve said, kids are self-centered. As toddlerhood draws to a close, though, you’ll start to see these techniques paying off in more grateful children. And that means… less whining! Won’t that be worth the wait?
Tip #5: Visit Choices For More Parenting Strategies
Your family is unique. You need ideas that are tailor-made for you. When you come to Choices Pregnancy Center, we’ll listen to your story and help you design an approach to raising grateful children that works best within your own family. Talk with us about starting free, one-on-one parenting classes today!