Four tips to teach children to be grateful
Over dinner, my 11-year-old daughter said to me, "Mom, I need a cell phone. I was thinking about the iPhone 6, but I like the iPhone 7 too." Her statement amused me, and although my immediate, knee-jerk reaction was a resounding "NO", I took the opportunity to teach her a basic finance principle. I asked her, "Do you need a phone, or do you want a phone?" To which she responded, "Need!" with firm conviction. Dinner ended with a good conversation where we talked about the difference between "I want" and "I need."
Parents, many times we ask ourselves: "Why are my children not happy with what they have?"; "Why do they have this unquenchable desire for more?"; "Why are they so ungrateful?" Wanting and desiring things is part of our human nature. We have basic impulses, and one of them is to acquire. The basic desire of wanting more isn't always a bad thing. It's what makes us curious about our world. It fuels our ambitions and makes us passionate about life. But if we leave this urge alone and make no attempt to control it, it can lead to unhappiness and a lack of satisfaction in life. This is what we see in our children: the urge to acquire in its purest form. As parents, our job is to channel their desires, helping them achieve balance by not giving them everything.
How can we help our young children and adolescents have a balanced life? Teach them to be grateful. Here are four tips to help you teach your children to be thankful.
Teach them the value of money
A practical and affordable way to teach your children the value of money is to take them shopping with you. By pointing out the price of things and comparing them with others, they will learn to decipher between expensive and cheap.
If your children are already in their pre-adolescence and adolescence years, you can involve them in creating the monthly household budget, where they can see the cost of rent, food, cars, school, etc. At these ages, you can also give them a weekly allowance. Explain that they will need to budget wisely, spending first on the most necessary things.
If they run out of money early, DO NOT replenish it, so they learn to spend money wisely.
Teach them to work for the things they want and don't necessarily need
From a young age, children must learn the value of hard work and that if you really want something, you need to put in the effort, show dedication and have patience and perseverance.
Work is precisely that: a constant show of effort, dedication, patience, and perseverance that only pays off only with time. You can teach this principle to your children by giving them household chores according to their age and abilities. As they grow, their responsibilities should increase. They need to know that no one else will do it for them if they forget or choose not to do it, and that not doing it will keep them from getting something they want. If your teen wants to work a few hours, as long as it doesn't get in the way of their school schedules, allow it. This will teach them responsibility, and they will learn that money does not grow on trees. They'll also learn that material things have value.
Teach them the value of giving
When our goal is to teach our children to be grateful, we must instill in them the desire to give. We must talk with our kids about the importance of sharing and being generous, and having empathy for others who are less fortunate. But it is, even more important, that as parents, we model the desire to give.
Involve your family in a community event where they can serve, donate clothes and shoes, or give money to help others. There are many hospitals, non-profit organizations, schools, churches, humanitarian organizations, etc., that provide many opportunities to serve and give.
Control your own urges to give your children everything they ask for
The wish of every parent is for their child to be better off than them. That can easily be confused with giving them everything they couldn't have when they were children. A culture of giving without limits creates ungrateful children.
We're living in a world where we are constantly consuming content, seeing false perfection, and being sold on the idea that we need more and more things. Now more than ever, parents need to step in and counteract this negative social and media influence. You have to set limits. Avoid "drowning" your children in toys, clothes, and things. Be careful not to give them more technology than they need. A simple life, almost always, is a fuller life.
Not having everything helps our children focus on what matters most, like friends and family, instead of yearning for things that — in reality — are not essential for their happiness.
Less is more.