Magazine article Work & Family Life

Helping Kids Appreciate the Good Things They Have

Magazine article Work & Family Life

Helping Kids Appreciate the Good Things They Have

Article excerpt

What do you say to children who cry when you tell them they can't have a toy they want or a pricey pair of sneakers or even a certain breakfast cereal?

"I feel like saying, 'You are a selfish, spoiled kid'," says Lynne. "And there's part of me that feels like blaming the media and our status-seeking culture - even their indulgent grandparents. But I know that I'm responsible too. I give my kids everything they need and probably too much of what they simply want."

Grateful behavior needs to be taught

Children (or adults, for that matter) who are given a great deal do not automatically become "thankful." But, as parents, we can do a lot to help our kids recognize and appreciate all that they have. Here are some suggestions:

* MODEL YOUR OWN FEELINGS OF APPRECIATION. Say thank you at every opportunity: "Thank you for that hug. It felt good." "Thank you for cleaning up that mess without being asked." Kids who hear grownups say thank you are more likely to say it themselves.

* COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS. Some parents play the "I'm lucky" game at bedtime. They tell kids how lucky they are (and why), then ask their child to name a few of his or her own "I'm lucky's."

When you play this game, you may start hearing a list of all the toys your child feels "lucky" to have. This is only natural: we've taught kids to say "thank you" for gifts. But if you ask " Who are you thankful for?" children will usually mention people and pets.

We can also teach our kids that life can be both light and dark. We might ask: " What makes you sad?" This will help children to see that we can have reasons to be grateful even when bad things happen.

* TEACH KIDS TO SEND THANK-YOU NOTES. They serve two purposes. They acknowledge that a gift was received, and they bolster empathy. Say, for example: "I'm sure Grandma will appreciate your note as much as you appreciate her gift." Have your child make a drawing on the note or card and write down what he or she has to say. As children get older, expect them to put more thought into each note.

* HELP YOUR CHILD BECOME A BETTER LISTENER. Young kids feel like they are the center of the universe and your job is to meet their needs. For a time, of course, that's true. But an awareness of the wants and needs of other people does not come naturally. It has to be taught.

One way to do this is to ask each other over dinner: "How was your day?" To get the conversation going with a child, you might say: "What's the best thing that happened to you today?"

Giving children your time and attention shows that you value and respect them. …

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