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November 25, 2011

{Article} How To Raise a Grateful Child

Parenting is difficult. I won't even pretend to know what i'm talking about yet b/c I don't - but i do envision my children to act and behave in a certain way... however the reality of this ideal situation is that the only way this happens is if it starts at home.

Here's an interesting article "How to Raise a Grateful Child" by which I'll merely italicize some exerpts I like. I highly encourage you to read the full article linked above!

You can raise your children to be grateful for what they have.

For distractible, still-developing children (and that's pretty much all of them), gratitude can be hard-won. While many can be trained to say "please" and "thank you" beginning at about 18 months, true appreciativeness and generosity take time to seed and blossom.
"There's a difference between encouraging thankfulness in your kids and actually expecting it," says Claire Lerner, a child-development specialist at Zero to Three, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the healthy development of kids and families. "Raising a grateful child is an ongoing process."
In-The-Moment Fix
"Emphasize that you appreciate there are many things he wants, but let him know it will only be possible to get a few of them," says Robert Brooks, Ph.D., a psychologist at Harvard Medical School and coauthor of Raising a Self-Disciplined Child. That way, you won't make him feel greedy or foolish for compiling a lengthy list, but you will set his expectations.

Another idea: Ask him to make a second list, equal in number to the things he wants to get, of things or actions he is willing to give, suggests Maureen Healy, author of 365 Perfect Things to Say to Your Kids. For example: 1) Clean his room, 2) Help you find a charity that the family can donate to, 3) Pitch in when Dad starts wrapping presents, 4) Make a holiday card. Last, if you're in for belt-tightening this year, let him know.

Long Term Strategy
Help him understand that gifts are thoughtful gestures, not just a way for him to score materialistic gain, says Lerner. Anytime he receives a present, point out everything the giver put into it.
Your 5-year-old grimaces at the stuffed Elmo her aunt gives her and says, "But I wanted a Barbie!"

In-The-Moment Fix
"The concept of hiding your own negative feelings to protect someone else's is way too complex for kids five and under," says Lerner. (Older kids get better and better but will still have frequent slipups.) So validate your daughter's feelings without responding critically, says Brooks.

Say "I know you wanted a Barbie, but let's think about all the different ways we can play with Elmo." You can also step in and model the appropriate response -- and defuse the uncomfortable situation -- by exclaiming something like "Wow, that was so thoughtful, wasn't it, Alli? Aunt Karen remembered you needed mittens!" This trick works for all ages: If your older son receives a gift he already owns, for example, say "Oh, cool! That's your favorite game!"
Long-Term Strategy: Before any gift-getting occasion, prepare your child for the possibility that she may not like all her presents, but at the same time, let her know that it's still important to show her appreciation. Remind her that people put effort into trying to find her the best thing.
You can't even take your kid to get socks or lightbulbs without him whining for you to buy him something -- seemingly anything.
In-The-Moment Fix
Before you go on any shopping trip, inform your child that you'll be hitting the mall to, say, buy gifts for his cousins. "Engage him in the process," says Lerner. "Ask him what his cousin Jane likes and which toy you should get her. Get him excited about buying for someone else." At the same time, make it clear that you won't be able to buy anything for him. Then, if your son throws a fit at the store, you can refer back to that conversation, and say something like "I know it's hard to be here when you're not getting anything, but that's the rule. Now, I really need your help finding something for Jane." Let's be honest: That might not be enough to stop his whining. But steel yourself and stay strong. Caving in will only teach him that he will eventually get his way if he complains loud or long enough.
Long-Term Strategy
Your weekends may be errand time, but try to avoid spending all your family moments pushing a shopping cart. That way, your kids won't think acquiring stuff is the leisure-time norm. (Don't get us wrong, though: We know those flattering jeans are sometimes an absolute necessity!)
Long-Term Strategy
Remind yourself to model grateful behavior.

 In your own everyday interactions, always offer warm thank-yous and praise to grocery store clerks, gas-station attendants, waiters, teachers -- anyone who's helpful to you or him. You may think your child isn't paying attention to those small moments, but he actually is.
When you say no to a toy that, according to your daughter, "everyone at school" has, she complains that all her BFFs get cooler stuff than she does.
In-The-Moment Fix Sympathize with her frustration, but remind your daughter that, actually, many people don't have as much as she does. How? Begin a tradition of charity work and donating. Start simple: As young as age 3, children can be encouraged to go through their belongings and pick out items to donate, says Lerner. Every year after that, they can get more involved.
Long-Term Strategy
Expose your daughter to people from all walks of life.

So the next time you see a homeless person, pass a shelter, or read a story in the news about a needy family, he suggests, ask questions -- "Where do you think that man sleeps?" or "Can you imagine what it would be like not to have a home?" -- that get your kids to put themselves in someone else's shoes. (At the same time, assure them that your family will always have a place to call home.) You'll be surprised -- and pleased -- at how often kids are moved to want to help.
Bonus mom advice: Don't diss gifts yourself as long as your little one is around. In fact, make a point of talking about the redeeming qualities of even that hideous necklace from your mother-in-law--how shiny! "You have to model gratitude if you want your child to practice it, too," points out Janette B. Benson, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology at the University of Denver.

Copyright 2011 The Parenting Group. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.

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