Most of us can recall when we were tweens and felt we deserved the privileges and gifts we were given. One website from Berkeley, www.greatergood.berkeley.edu, asks if your children are more entitled than grateful. The premise is that “the opposite of gratitude is entitlement.” Christine Carter, Ph.D., sociologist, writes this blog. The parents that answer on this site back up this premise with examples of dealing with their teens, the majority of whom do not seem appreciative. Gratitude, according to these parents, makes a person happy. Kids are primarily concerned with gaining their independence, and gratitude to parents or teachers does not feel good to them.
Suggestions for teaching kids to feel and express more appreciation are:
- Foster altruism, and that will lead to gratitude.
- Let children lead. Have them design a way for family to be grateful.
- Avoid sarcasm, teasing, and humor in expressing appreciation.
- Use gratitude to cultivate growth and reflection. What have you learned from that difficult experience?
- Be persistent.
If you go online to www.cdc.gov/youthcampaign, you will find something called VERB Appreciation Day, with many ideas for physical activities and how to show your appreciation. It is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This is just one example of kids participating in an activity and enthusiastically showing their gratitude.
Michael Josephson of the Josephson Institute in Los Angeles, (www.whatwillmatter.com) writes about appreciation. He says it is “more than politeness” or saying thank you. Josephson says “it’s a deeper psychological state of genuine thankfulness.” Here are some of the points he gives us:
- Instead of complaining, look at what you have to be grateful for,
- It is irresponsible not to realize those things.
- “Thank God for Dirty Dishes” is a song that says “if you’re lucky to have enough food to make dirty dishes, you should be grateful.”
- Things we should appreciate may be from luck, our own talent or hard work, or a gift from God.
Today Parents (www.today.com) presents 20 ways to teach kids gratitude, from tots to teens. Amy McCready, the founder, offers strategies to raise unspoiled kids. The section on the Middle School Years lists five things to encourage your tweens:
- Get a thank-you video from someone who gave you a gift or did something kind.
- Make a plan to research and carry out a service project.
- Create a gratitude photo book (of things you are thankful for).
- Help out without being asked.
- Give a gift card for someone in need.
Realize that it takes time and patience to teach gratitude. Try to remember when you were a pre-teen. Change takes time, but it also takes encouragement and action, so gently help your tweens to feel less entitled and more appreciative. It will make all of you happier.