Sunday, November 10, 2013

Gratitude for Ungrateful Kids

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My initial guess is that this is not going to be a well-received point of view. Especially because I'm about to bring up Dr. Laura Schlesinger.

The other day, a mom called into the Dr. Laura radio show to complain about her ungrateful tween daughter. "She thinks the whole world revolves around her," the exasperated mother lamented. The mom then went on to describe what I think we all experience as middle-class parents. The kids don't appreciate anything: the mound of toys we buy for them, the lessons we pay for and shuttle them back and forth to, the fabulous trips from every festival in town to amusement parks in other states, the meals we meticulously prepare and then and inevitably scrape into the garbage disposal half an hour later.

And then Dr. Laura broke in with her response. They're kids. They don't know anything besides this. They don't have the experience or worldview that we parents do.

Okay, that was unexpected.

I don't remember if she ended up giving the mom any actual advice, but that call really struck a nerve. We all want our kids to be grateful (especially around this time of year). But seriously...we do give them everything they want--and more. They haven't forgone ice skating or ballet lessons because Mom and Dad couldn't afford it. They haven't lived an entire summer eating only canned pork and beans and ramen noodles. They haven't gone without health insurance for a couple years. They havent lived in a rat-, cockroach-, or flying ant-infested house with a broken down furnace.

Don't get me wrong: I want my kids to be thankful. The fact that they are usually not thankful upsets and pains me. Sometimes, when I get really exasperated, I wish I could send them down to the 'hood for a few days to live in a dirty apartment with ten siblings, no dad, and a mommy who didn't even want them in the first place (then I lighten up a little and think maybe we should just go on a working farm vacation over in Amish country).

My point is this: Dr. Laura is right. They don't get it. So what do we do? Make them do a few chores. Make sure they see you doing your chores. Don't serve their food arranged in the shape of a teddy bear. Talk to them about some of the tough times you went through as a kid (my personal favorites are the one where Dad had pneumonia and we had to live on deer meat and welfare cheese for a month, and the sad story about how I asked Santa for the Barbie Dream House* every year and never got it).

They'll figure it out eventually.

*If you're a fellow child of he '70s or '80s and never got the Barbie Dream House either, watch this video. The memory of this commercial will be like a dagger in your heart. I promise.

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  1. I think gratitude comes with a broader world view. Selfishness is just normal for kids. Maybe start forcing some volunteering? They're going to need it later on for things like college anyway. In South Florida they all need to have a certain amount of hours just to graduate high school.

    I'm pretty sure that just teaches how annoying school rules are, though.

    1. LOL, Meeshie, I love your outlook.

      We live about 30 minutes from Amish country, so I have SERIOUSLY considered the farm work vacation (what?? No Playstation??). Or, there's a local farm that has summer farm chore camp. Can't wait 'til the boys are old enough for that! :)

  2. We do a "blessing jar" every November, but it really is just a gratitude list. The kids write what they are thankful for and we put it in the jar. It certainly doesn't get them to appreciate their stuff any more... (Why can't I put marker on my jacket?") But I do think they have a good attitude of gratitude... They know to say thank you, and they know that all life is truly a gift, especially babies and the sick or dying. I also think it helps to talk about the marginalized right in their neck of the woods. One day I mentioned to the kids that they went to school with plenty of children who didn't have enough money to pack a healthy lunch, and they were stunned. I think we all just those little things to help them learn that all we have is today and surely we should be grateful for that! :) Love ya Prickly!

    1. Cory, you just reminded me that one of Mo Bug's first "words" was "doot-doo," which meant "thank you." That's something I have to remember to be proud of as a mom. :)

  3. yeah it is a tricky one isn't it. I'm glad that I can provide for my son, but he will grow up thinking thats the norm. I hope as he gets older and sees that others don;t have what he has, he will realise he is lucky and that will help him learn to be grateful.
    I'm featuring your post on SPP this weekend

  4. I think kids who are actually really ungrateful in a bad way actually aren't happy. One of my children is going through a rough patch right now. And I have noticed that his complaints about food and material possessions not being enough have sky rocketed. For this child, it isn't about the "things" but the fact this child is struggling emotionally. But I do know that giving into demands for more things won't bring happiness. So we work on other ways to bring more peace through giving more one on one attention and being healthier through play, exercise, and consistency. I think in that teen age most kids are struggling bc of changes and again it's not about the things but the kids grasping at a way to bring happiness to their lives but not understanding that things don't make us happier.

    1. Hey, Mama P, I completely agree with you about ungratefulness and unhappiness going hand in hand. Your child in question (as well as the rest of them) are lucky to have such a loving, thoughtful mother. :)