Updated: May 6
Frequently children, especially small children, may seem especially ungrateful for everything you do for them. They keep asking for more. It's frustrating.
As children grow up though, it may be even more frustrating to see an ungrateful teen who rebels against you. You may question what you have done wrong if they don't thank you for all you have done for them. This is something that many of us experience as parents.
If this is something you are struggling with, teaching our children gratitude is something we can do at any age. Not only will this ease some household struggles, gratitude is a skill that will serve them well all their lives.
Why children don't appreciate what they have.
There are many reasons that children may not appreciate the things that they have. Some of this is developmental especially for very small children. However for older children and teens the issues may be more complex.
In some cases, children have always been given what they want. They have a secure and happy life, and want for nothing. As parents, we probably think this is a very good thing. But when a child has never lacked for anything, they may not understand the value of things around them. As adults, we work for all the things that we have, children don't. Teaching them to understand the value of a dollar that comes through work is not always something that children of this generation learn.
According to Raising Kids with Purpose, there are four surprising reasons that kids may not appreciate what they have:
Living in a Bubble
Need for Autonomy
Most commonly, these are attitudes that develop in childhood, because we have tried our best to provide every possible gift and experience for our children, and it has backfired.
We have all seen someone with a sense of entitlement. They think that the world owes them a living. All in all, these are not pleasant people to be around. My daughter had one such friend that went with us to a convention, didn't bring any of the lunches we had prepared for her, and then asked everyone else for food. She spent all her money on the first day buying trinkets and had nothing left. Then she couldn't even be bothered to bring a prepared lunch.
Kids like my daughter's friend are all too common these days, we just want to be sure that our own kids aren't turning out that way. Changing their behavior comes with changing our own behavior. We need to be sure that we aren't acting as helicopter parents, and never allowing our children to fail. They take their success for granted, as well as all the advantages we have given them in life. They don't understand that life can be any other way.
When children are very small, we can teach them about manners, and saying please and thank you. As they grow older, they will learn to experience deeper appreciation for what they have, as they can understand that people have had to work hard to give them something. They begin to understand the meaning behind what is given to them.
According to Positive Psychology, there are different types of gratitude that children are able to express as their brains develop.
Concrete gratitude is the verbal “manners” type of gratitude, like an
automatic “thank you” as a recognition of appreciation for something received.
Another type of gratitude is connective gratitude. This type is a fully understood and appreciated receipt of whatever has been given. The appreciation is returned in a meaningful and heartfelt way, benefiting both receiver and giver. For gratitude to be an effective way to increase happiness, it must be felt, and connective gratitude is the key.
There are many ways that children can learn about gratitude, but the key is seeing you express gratitude in your own life.
For us as moms, there are many different ways that we can express gratitude for all that we have, and involve our children in our gratitude practice.
Oftentimes, children don't appreciate what they have. They think the world revolves around them and things come to them naturally.
Once children have learned that they will always be cared for, we can begin to teach them gratitude as well. This can be learned easily, because children are kind and happy beings. However, we need to teach them gratitude in small ways every day to get them to adopt the habit.
What do you think? Are your kids grateful for all the things they have, and all the things that you do for them? Let me know in the comments.
Also, as always, let me know if there are other topics that you would like me to cover on the blog in the future!
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