BEST STARTS FOR KIDS
Fostering Gratitude Not Entitlement
Do you feel at times your children aren't always grateful for what they've got.
They may even feel entitled to have more... After all doesn't everyone deserve to be a princess.
The seeds of discontentment and entitlement can be sown early, in childhood. A child wants something, a caring parent fulfills their want.
The parent has good intentions, wanting their child to be happy. But the hidden lesson for a child can be, what I want ... I get. Especially if they're given a lot. Getting things can become an expectation, not a privilege ... And there are so many things to want in our modern society.
Do we ever consider that in our desire to give our children everything we can, our kids can feel they deserve even more. There's always someone who has more to compare themselves to.
And instead of feeling gratitude to parents for the things they have, some kids become increasingly demanding towards parents when they eventually have to say 'No.'
2. Talk about Privilege, About How Privileged We All Are and Develop a Dialogue about Gratitude.
Explain the difference between rights and privileges so your young child sees how many privileges they have to be grateful for.
Help in charity drives. Show your children examples of people who are worse off. And show them practical ways to help others... And help others.
Link increased privileges to increased responsibilities
Then children learn the way the world really works. If you are more responsible as an adult you are usually given more trust by others.
Discuss the many privileges most people in modern societies have.
That way, as children become teenagers, instead of feeling entitled for everything they have in life, they feel grateful.
Let your children experience not getting all their own way.
How do children build resilience if they've never gotten to exercise it? If every light in a child's life is green, they begin to expect it. Later when they're rejected by a boyfriend, or girlfriend, they don't have the skills to cope. Children need to be able to dust themselves off, accept disappointments & move on.
Educate your child to recognise everyday privileges:
e.g.: Watching T.V. is a privilege. Afternoon school activities, toys and games, going to a friend's place to play, a privilege. Fashion clothes, a phone, even providing the foods your child likes best for meals is actually a privilege.
Try linking children's privileges to things your child earns like: being helpful, trustworthy, cooperative, responsible, thoughtful, etc.
Children aren't armed with the same levels of life experience or critical thinking as adults, so when exposed to advertising, or peer pressure, can find it difficult to understand why they can't have what they want
Educating children about the importance of others, as well as ourselves, helps them remain respectful, rather than be entitled
Develop a dialogue around privilege so your child recognizes every day privileges in their lives to be grateful for. And link increasing privileges to increasing responsibilities
Model respect, gratitude & appreciation in your everyday interactions with others
Express gratitude to your children for acting responsibly and thoughtfully
Be fair. Give others the benefit of the doubt, rather than be demanding of service or intolerant of failures by being entitled yourself
Encourage your children to spend time in nature, particularly where they can be awestruck by things greater than themselves
Is it possible by not educating our children that others are equally important, children can feel they're better than others & therefore more entitled than others.
This entitlement can be evidenced by behaviours such as being: disrespectful to others. Or at an extreme: prejudicial, racist, ageist, elitist, bullies,etc
Some kids have never gone without things for long, or ever experienced real disappointment. So it's easy for kids and teenagers to see the world through the lens of entitlement.
But is it likely over the long-term a child will have others be as accommodating as a their own parent. Entitlement doesn't always bode well for mental health, supportive relationships & fulfilling careers.
So how do you develop happy children with good self-esteem and worth without making them entitled?
1. Get your children into nature so they learn to appreciate simplicity and natural beauty. Let them be awestruck by things bigger than themselves:
Spend positive time together building the relationship and on activities that cost little or are free: going to the beach, or the lake, or a play at the park, etc. Take a picnic. Hang out together and express how wonderful it is just to be together and alive.
Go to places that are naturally awe-inspiring: an ocean after storm, a lookout, a walk through an old growth forest. Let your children see they are part of something much bigger than themselves.
3. Notice the Positive Wherever Possible and Express Gratitude...
Give your child an unexpected privilege they'll really appreciate and link it to gratitude for what they've done. And be specific.
It can often be something you were going to do for them anyway. This can be a book written by their favourite author (for a child who loves to read,) a kick around the back yard with a footy (if that's their thing,) even reading an extra book at bedtime (while they're little) because they were so cooperative.
Say something like: 'I've been so impressed with the way you handled the extra load we put on you when your little brother was sick. You stepped up; made sure we ate well. You kept the washing up to date for us & even stacked the dishwasher after you cooked. I really appreciate it. I don't know what we would have done without you.'
Entitlement Can Begin Early
Genuinely appreciating someone can transform their world.
Often adults, not just children, feel unappreciated, unimportant or even unloved. Sometimes adults will risk everything in their life for someone who shows them some appreciation & gratitude. e.g. Online dating scammers use adoration & appreciation to exploit the vulnerable.
Model gratitude in your every day life.
Let your child see that you're grateful for what you have, and are willing to verbalize it. 'I love you guys.' I'm so lucky to have you.' If you're out and someone treats you well, acknowledge it. Let them see good manners and positive social interactions modeled by you rather than entitlement.
4. Be gracious & kind to people who can do nothing for you.
That way your child learns how to treat all people with dignity. Notice and comment on good service, smile at shop assistants and waiters. Be polite.
5. Get to know people in your community. Be a helpful part of it.
Be well-mannered and helpful. E.g: Take in your neighbour's bins if you know they'll be late home, put their newspaper under cover if it's raining, if you know them well you could get their washing in and put it under cover, etc
It's not what you say, it's what you do, your children will eventually copy.
6. Give your child a positive script to live up to, so they learn they're a good person.
Then they value themselves for who they are... not for what they have.
Encourage kids to flip entitled thinking onto the things they have to be grateful for. Being grateful, rather than being entitled, is usually much better for mental health. People tend to like grateful, positive people more than entitled, demanding people.
7. The quality of friends your child has can make a huge difference to their level of entitlement.
If your child spends a lot of time in a peer group that's mostly concerned with the new things they have, rather than what they're achieving with their lives, it's possible your child will become increasingly entitled due to their influence.
By encouraging friendships with kids who appreciate things and are grateful, your children's sense of self worth is more likely to be valued and protected.
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A father playing chess with his son can help create a positive relationship
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