Picture this: A family friend gives your kid a toy he has been eyeing, but instead of being ecstatic, junior mutters that he actually prefers the newer version. Exasperated, you remind him that he’s an ungrateful brat.
Indeed, no parent sets out to raise a spoiled and selfish child. Every mum and dad hope to bring up a kid who is kind, considerate and appreciative. Sadly, people often lament that children “these days” are so much more entitled and ungrateful than in years past.
So, it’s important that your little one learns gratitude from their tender age. For sure, your offspring will never get everything he wants, but you can teach him to appreciate what he already has. Learning to be thankful will benefit your children in many ways ― they become happier, gain perspective, and are more understanding in the long run.
Your offspring will never get everything he wants, but you can teach him to appreciate what he already has.
1. Be a role model for showing gratitude
It’s important to teach them how to respond in situations in which people have been kind to them. Dr Lim Boon Leng, a psychiatrist at Dr BL Lim Centre for Psychological Wellness, says that teaching children to say “thank you” is an effective way to instil gratitude in them, since they’ll learn how to show appreciation when people are kind to them.
Whenever they experience acts of kindness, do emphasise the thought that was put behind the act rather than just what came out of it (like receiving a present).
As a family, you could do several things to carry out gratitude with your little one. A good practice to adopt with your kids is to quickly write and mail out “thank you” notes for gifts or kind acts, which will help them to get into the habit of thanking people.
You can also make it routine to sit down together daily and list the things that each of you are thankful for.
2. Create a gratitude journal
Encourage your child to get into the habit of listing things that he’s thankful for in a gratitude journal regularly. This habit can help your little one find things to be grateful for and count their blessings, even on bad days.
3. Give your children tasks or responsibilities
Give your little ones simple chores to do at home, or get them to look after someone, such as their younger sibling) ― this is a good way to make your child get a sense of and be thankful for what mum and dad are doing around the house daily.
4. Get them to earn things they want
Instead of buying your kids things whenever they ask for it, it is better get them to work for it. Not giving your kids everything they want will make them treasure things more.
“The more your child works to earn what they want, the more valuable it is to them,” explains Dr Hana Ra Adams, a counsellor at German European School Singapore.
Koh also points out that when you refrain from giving in to your child some things, it also reduces their sense of entitlement. In fact, the experts SmartParents spoke to agreed that this is a good way to combat the influx of toy ads that target your little one constantly.
“The more your child works to earn what they want, the more valuable it is to them.”
5. Focus on the positive
When you talk to your child at the end of the day, make it a point to be optimistic and focus on the positive things that happened in the day ― for you and your child. Not only is this a good practice, it’s also an effective conversation starter. On bad days, help your mini-me find the “bright side” in any bad situations he is sharing with you.
6. Show kids how lucky they are
Dr Ra Adams notes that volunteering can also help children feel that they can make a difference in the world, and that every action has a big impact.
7. Encourage them to give back
Beyond just thanking those who have done something kind for them, it is good to encourage your child to act with kindness to everyone. Dr Lim suggests that you teach your kid to pay forward acts of kindness to other people around them, not just to the ones who have been kind to them.
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