As parents, we hear the words spoiled and entitled, and most of us think, “That’s not how I want my kids to turn out.” We want our children to be kind, loving, caring members of society. We want to raise thankful children. How do we manage to raise thankful children instead of entitled or spoiled kids? Honestly, it’s easier than you might think.
Raising thankful children
Our children learn their behaviors from us, their parents, teachers, friends, extended family, and anyone else they spend time with. When we model thankful behavior and grace and courtesy, our children learn from our behavior.
When your child does something nice for you or helps you with chores around the house, do you thank them for helping, or do you dismiss it as “expected of them”? Yes, it’s expected that children will help with chores, but remembering to take a moment to say thank you can go a long way to teaching children manners.
Do you take time to listen to your children when they’re talking to you? Not a cursory glance over your phone and back to your text but set your phone down (or whatever it is you were working on when they spoke) and give them your full attention? Do you ask about their day? Showing interest in your children and being present in their lives can help teach them about empathy and manners. If they’re upset, ask what’s upsetting them and allow them to explain in their own words and then repeat back to them, so they know that you’ve heard them. Often when children end up yelling, screaming, crying, etc. it’s because they don’t feel heard. By taking a moment to listen to your child and repeat what they’ve said, you’re showing that their feelings matter, and that helps them feel heard and loved.
Children act out because they learn that they can get a reaction. Little kids don’t always care if that reaction is positive or negative; they want the attention they crave. When you’re more in tune with your child and helping them feel heard, there’s less need to act out, thus less spoiled behavior.
Does your child have chores or help around the house?
A young child should help around the home each week so they can understand that everyone pitches in and helps. They’re not too little to do something. As our friend Daniel Tiger says, “everyone is big enough to do something.” Have your children help cook or clean up their room, have them help with the grocery list, or make their bed. Teaching children to have responsibilities helps them grow up more thankful. They might even take better care of things when they know they have to help clean up the mess.
Do you buy your child everything they see so you can avoid the tantrum?
When we give our children everything they see, they don’t learn to value anything. Think about it for a moment, if you went out to dinner somewhere fancy every single night, how much would you value an evening out? You wouldn’t because it wouldn’t be special anymore. It would be Wednesday. When we give our children everything they see, we don’t teach them to value the things they get. We show them that they can have anything, anytime for any reason, and the reality is, life isn’t going to be that way for them unless you plan on supporting them forever. We learn to value items because we work hard for them. We take care of them because we know what they’re worth to us. When we give our children everything, they don’t learn these lessons. Yes, you avoid the tantrum that moment, but do they even care about the shiny object they spotted in Target? No. They forget about it after 10 minutes. But when it’s a treat, or they earn money themselves, it’s more special, and kids care more about things that are special to them.
Lastly, do your children know others are less fortunate?
This can be a hard lesson to teach, especially with young children, but there are age-appropriate ways you can do this to help them understand. Is there a food bank? Take your children to pick out food to donate to “kids with hungry tummies.” Is there a Christmas gift drive? Have your children pick out a tag and buy gifts for a child who might not get anything else and talk about the fact that some kids don’t live with their mommies and daddies and they don’t get to have birthday parties or get new school clothes or Christmas presents or whatever season it is. Help your child understand the difference and learn to help those who have less.
You can raise a thankful child by talking about the things that matter to them. If you want to take this one step further, you can create a Thankful Turkey together and have your child list something they’re thankful for on a turkey feather every day in November, up to Thanksgiving. Don’t judge what they’re thankful for but help them understand the concept. Very young children may be thankful for mommy, daddy, candy, etc. but it helps them learn and understand the idea. At Thanksgiving dinner, go around the table and ask each person, the kids, too, what they’re thankful for this year.
We have to help our children understand what it means to be thankful if we want to raise thankful children — a child who is given everything and doesn’t have to help ends up spoiled and entitled. The real world isn’t going to work that way. It’s our job to teach our children in a loving way that they have to be present and help and that in the end, it helps also teach them to be thankful for what they have in their lives.
We would love to have your family join the family at Klein-Spring Montessori. Contact us today to learn more about our school.