grate•ful: feeling or showing appreciation; thankful.
en•ti•tiled: believing oneself to be inherently deserving of privileges or special treatment.
An interesting juxtaposition occurs in November and December. Immediately following a month where we focus on being thankful, we launch into the biggest consumer month of the year. The shopping carnage now begins on the very same day we celebrate Thanksgiving. I’m reminded of the quote, “Only in America do people trample each other for sales the day after giving thanks for what they already have.”
Immediately after counting blessings, our kids can quickly turn into entitled brats who keep adding to the list of things they want.
Do you know any entitled adults? I do. They’re the people who don’t think rules apply to them, who want special treatment, don’t want to wait in line like everyone else, and think they need the newest and best of everything. Where do these entitled adults come from? My non-scientific guess is that they were once entitled kids.
I want my kids to become grateful adults who are thankful for what they have rather than constantly being in the entitled state of reaching for the ever-elusive “more.” Science has proven that grateful people are happier.
Our parenting problem is that it’s difficult to teach kids gratitude when our lifestyles don’t contain the very things that inspire gratitude: scarcity and difficulty. We’ve got closets and drawers full of clothes, a pantry and refrigerator that could feed us (and several friends) for a few months if needed, more electronic devices than people, Legos and Nerf guns overflowing from shelves, and video games abounding.
When a new soccer season started last month, my son asked about getting new cleats and a new soccer ball. I asked if his cleats were too small or had holes, and the answer was no. He assumed that a new season meant new stuff, and probably that’s because, with his feet growing so rapidly in past years, that’s what a new season had meant. I told him I wasn’t buying new cleats and a new ball, but he could choose to spend his own money on those items. I never heard about it again and the “old” cleats and ball made it through the season just fine.
Building our gratitude muscles is the best way to rid ourselves of our entitled attitudes. And, while I’ve read and written about gratitude for several years and had many family conversations and activities related to being thankful, we still have a long way to go to becoming truly grateful people. This month, instead of talking ad nauseum about all the stuff we want (oh, the conundrum of the iPhone 6 vs. 6+), we’re going to do three things that will move us towards being a more grateful family:
Give our time, our talents, our stuff, and our money
• Make hand made gifts or create experience coupons for grandparents and others as much as possible (rather than just finding random things at Target to get someone “checked off” the list). I can’t share here what my 11 year old is making for everyone, because then his recipients will know, but I’ll comment after the holidays. One of his popular past-year gifts were coupons for 10-minute massages, which we all loved!
• Create thoughtful teacher and coach gifts with hand written notes.
• Volunteer our time to help people in our community. There are ample opportunities this time of year to volunteer. We’ve signed up to help out at a party for foster kids in our community and at a “Santa’s Village” where families can come get toys and clothing items. Both will take just a few hours of our time.
• Instead of making this a holiday where we stuff more things into our closets, shelves, and drawers, we’ll focus on getting more items OUT of the house than IN. Sorting and donating gently used clothes, toys, and books is a great way to clear the clutter and help people in our community at the same time. December goal: a less cluttered house at the end of the month than at the beginning!
• Select charitable organizations to support individually or as a family. Charitynavigator.org offers objective data on how effective different charitable organizations are in delivering their services. In our family, we like to support both local charities in our community that we see in action as well as global charities doing work all over the U.S. and the world. World Vision and Heifer, International both have catalogs that kids can browse through and select where their donation dollars go. For younger kids, I think this is a more effective way to show them what they are actually giving when they give their money. Packing shoe boxes for Samaritan’s Purse is also an annual tradition, and we do the tracking option so we can see where our gifts end up. Toys for Tots is nation-wide and a great way to give to kids who might not otherwise get any gifts this holiday. I like when kids can select and purchase a tangible gift to donate.
Help out at home more
• Big holiday meal? We’ll divide up the cooking so every family member makes something.
• Kitchen clean up? It will be a family effort, preferably with some music playing!
• Decorating? We’re all in this together (are you singing the High School Musical song yet?).
• Guests coming? Have kids help make beds, put out flowers, empty trash, get clean towels, etc.
Why have the kids help with even more household chores this month than usual? Because (1) They have more time and (2) Nothing irks me more than scrambling around like a chicken with my head cut off trying to get shopping done, presents wrapped, dinner cooked, and the house cleaned up while my kids are sprawled on the couch playing a video game. Not only does that make them picture-perfect entitled kids, it makes me a grouchy mom.
Practice family gratitude habits
• Create a Family Gratitude Jar, Journal, or Bulletin Board (I love this framed one). I haven’t done this yet, but I’ll see what my gang wants to do. We’ve had individual gratitude journals, but we have not been consistent in using them, so I think a group gratitude activity might work better.
• Make our List of 100 Memories with a gratitude twist. We make the list every year, but this year we’ll add things we’re grateful for from 2014.
• Write thank you notes for all gifts received.
Despite my historical overdoing of gift-giving, I’m going to hold myself back and give each child one book, one special toy or gift , and one clothing item or outfit. This will be challenging for me, but when I am tempted to buy more, I will remind myself of the tossed out and broken stuff from last year (that no one even remembers) and the importance of raising grateful kids.
Grateful Campers are Happy Campers (Sunshine Parenting)
Gratitude Revisited Sunshine Parenting)
Happiness Habits (Sunshine Parenting)
Book Review: How Children Succeed (Sunshine Parenting)
Best Gifts of 2014 (Sunshine Parenting)
Why Gratitude is Good (Greater Good Science Center, UC Berkeley)
Teaching Children to Be Grateful (Parenting.com)
I know, this is too much information about gratitude and entitlement. But, if you want even more, like my Facebook Page or follow one of my Pinterest Boards: Sunshine Parenting, Gratitude, or Happiness.
I am grateful to you for reading my post. Thank you and have a wonderful, gratitude-filled holiday season.