Posted by on December 22, 2017

Teaching Children Gratitude

You may want your children to appreciate the things you do for them. Like most parents we want good things for our kids. Sometimes in our efforts to teach them to appreciate things, we may fail in our approach and it backfires on us. Some of the things I have learned that do not work with kids and will drive you crazy.

Threats. “you are going to be nothing… you have no ambition and you are going to fail at everything…”

Telling your kids how spoiled they are and how disappointed you are in them. What children hear is the negative. They need to hear a plan of how to improve. Kids need to see for themselves they are not on track, and that they are responsible for their own issues.

Help them see that their behaviors will lead to real and natural consequences. Real consequences are more important than teaching them to please. Its not important that they make anyone else happy. Its more important that kids see the need to evaluate themselves, by owning their successes and failures.

Comparisons. “Other children would give anything to have what you have” When children are compared to others, it does not lead to a feeling of gratitude. It teaches kids to feel jealous and envious of others. This envy is likely to induce a feeling of greed and guilt.

Kids that feel that they can not keep up with others may become bullies. Teaching kids to set their own goals and beat themselves is a better way of teaching them to be successful. There is always going to be someone better, so only striving to beat others will fail much of the time. Successful people are not followers they are leaders, blazing their own path towards success.

Indebtedness. “you owe me; all that I have done for you… the least you can do is…”

Children should not feel that they must be successful in order to get out of debt or return a favor to people that have helped them. Kids should feel that they owe themselves the success, and those around them are there for support no matter what.

Often times kids feel obligated to a specific person and this leads to dependency and a pleasing mentality. Being grateful is more something a person directs to many people that have helped him or her. Feeling grateful shows that you appreciate help that was given freely without a debt to be repaid.

Bribing  “If you do what your supposed to do than ….” 

Bribery is a big no no when it comes to teaching kids about personal responsibility.  Giving kids gifts or compliments about their performance does not teach them to be grateful, it teaches them to be dependent pleasers. Kids will feel that they should do things for a reward instead of doing things for personal accomplishment.

It is better to teach kids to be grateful. Grateful for all of the people, resources and things that have supported them in their efforts.  It is also important for them to know that everyone did so freely and without obligation.  Teach kids that it is their sport or activity and their reward in the end. Ask them, “How do you believe you did?  (based on their own expectations). The process will take a bit more patience: allowing your kids time to figure out what they want.  Sometimes it means watching your child fail, and still supporting their efforts.

Controlling and Manipulating.  “ I love you so much when you do the right things…”  “ If you don’t accomplish this, than you don’t care and will always be a failure…”

Manipulating kids and making them feel that they are in a situation that if they don’t please, than they are doomed….. well that is the worst situation to be in. Kids will focus solely on what they need to do to please and not lose love or support. They will focus on doing everything perfectly and leave no room to learn through trial and error and will absolutely fail for sure. They may just give up completely and become oppositional just to gain control.

Sometimes kids may only be able to reach a certain goal in and activity and they plateau for a time period.  It is usually in this time period that they learn to separate their own feelings and ideas from those around them.  Controlling and manipulating kids most always fails in the long run: even though there may be short term successes. The real success in the long run may not be the activity, but what the child learns and internalizes from the experience. What goes on in a child’s head is the unknown.  Putting kids in the best circumstances, with the most nurturing environment is very important to put good experiences into your child’s mind.  A negative environment may help your child win a trophy, but could also leave  your child with a lifetime of problems as well. There is a delicate balance with kids and it takes constant communication and a whole lot of caring supportive people to make them happy, healthy and grateful.

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