5 Tips on Raising a Child Who's Thankful ( and not Entitled)



I have an only child who doesn't have siblings to compete for my attention and when he doesn't get his way, throws a fit. I find it troubling that saying no can make a little person so angry. The worst part, my partner and I have done much to encourage such behavior. I know it's not just my child that acts like that- spoiled and entitled, but that doesn't make me feel any better knowing that my child isn't the only one. Makes us parents want to never bring our children out with us when we go shopping- because, at one point, your kid is going to cry when he/she doesn't get the toy or maybe food they want.

I want this...
Image credit: Pixabay
Unfortunately, there are co-conspirators that enforce the behavior. It may be TV, YouTube, their playmates/friends, our status-seeking culture or relatives like grandparents who indulge in our children. Seems all this is counterproductive as most of us parents would call our children spoilt rotten. Fortunately, we can solve this although it's a long-term process and may not provide an immediate cure. All in all, as we prepare our children to be responsible adults of the future, these certain small but significant lifestyle parameters can help them grow up feeling less entitled and more accountable, responsible, and disciplined.

1. Tell them "no" and mean it. Don't feel guilty.
We are parents, not a friend and as parents, while our children are still young, we have to be parents. We have to set limits and when enforcing limits, we have to say "no" and not renegotiate or back down. Some parents have trouble or struggle with saying "no", most especially when the child is crying and screaming at the top of his lungs. These are things kids have to learn- that they can't get everything they want. It will be hard for them to process that when they become adults and can't get what they want. This may lead to low self-esteem and depression.
It may be hard for us parents not to give what our children want all the time but saying " no" is necessary most especially when it comes to impulse purchases. You have to teach them just because they want a certain item doesn't necessarily mean that it's needed. There are more important things needed not a robot or doll that everyone seems to have.
There are some parents who admit that they feel guilty that they weren't able to give in to their child's wishes. Don't feel guilty. Explain to your children that they aren't being punished, that there are things that come first and that you are teaching them a sense of responsibility.
Tantrums.
Image credit: Pixabay

2. Make manners count.
I read an article that in Japan, they focus on teaching children manners and rightly conduct during the formative years of a child's life. We should also instill manners in our children even if our surroundings show otherwise. I know, when we go to a diner, we hear adults saying "give me this" or "I want that". It may cause your child to ask but, tell your children there's always a polite way of doing things, that to earn respect from others we may have to give respect first.

It takes just 3 little words to start off and it's not 'I love you'. I'm talking about the words " please" and "thank you". These are 3 powerful words that beget the values of politeness and thankfulness and you may begin teaching this with toddlers because this is the time when a child starts to make values judgments. While 2-year-olds are typically rebellious and may act out on purpose, 3 year-olds can be pleasing-politeness machines. They may not be able to grasp the true implications of saying these 3 words, but the idea is to start making this a habit. At this age, there is a lack of spontaneous empathy-they are not capable of appreciating the effort, time or cost for something until age 8 or so. As they grow older, you can fully explain the importance of these words and that when dealing with people we should always be polite and say thank you when something is given to us whether it is an object or a service. And as parents, we should model this behavior and hold to the standards of what we preach. One way of showing this is during dinner, simply thank dad for providing for the food or thank mom for taking the time to prepare and cook the food. You can also go as far as thanking the farmers who grow the food and bring it to the market.
My son has included "I'm sorry" when he knows he has done something hurtful- like poke me in the eye. At least, it's a start.

3. Teach them to count the blessings that count and expose them to the less fortunate.
As we scroll down our pages on social media, we may see people buying new stuff and tagging it with "feeling blessed". The same goes for children...when you ask them to count their blessings, you'll be hearing them go on and on about their favorite toys if not the new toy that grandma and grandpa just sent them. There's nothing wrong with children being thankful for their material possessions just as long as it does not supersede the gratitude for the love and support of family and friends. It's only natural that children will be thankful for their possessions because how many times did us parents ask them to say thank you when they receive them? What we can do is ask them instead " Who are you thankful for?" or maybe, "What makes you feel sad?". Here, children will think of the important people in their lives even be thankful of their pets or what happened in the day that made them sad like a best friend who didn't show up in school because she was sick. This opens a bigger perspective for children and with your guidance, they may now understand that there are other things that we should be grateful for like, health, security and comfort. You can do this during bedtime prayers or once a week while heading to school. Your child can thank everyone, anyone, or anything that comes to her/his mind aside from their favorite toys.
Exposing your child to the less fortunate such as victims of natural disasters, refugees, or in my country's case, street children or children in orphanages. Ask your child how she may want to help out and explain that people need our help- that we may be lucky now but, that could become us if anything might happen and we would want and hope that others would help us in our time of need. Make your child proactive in helping others in need- this will instill empathy for others.
Philippine child volunteer, Mactan, Cebu.
Image credit: Pixabay
4. Teach them about money and give them some responsibility around the house.
Of course as adults, we know that work and time equate to money. Children think that money grows on trees. Thus, it is recommended that we teach children about money and that these lessons should be taught early on in life.
Children have to know that the money we spend is earned from hard work that mom and dad does to provide for all the things that are needed around the house. They should also learn that the money earned can only go so far and that everything is not affordable and there is a need to pick and choose what we are going to buy. This will teach children to spend wisely and thus, can carry this skill into adulthood.
Usually, linking money with work is essential to teach the value of money. There stands a controversy regarding giving chores to children and allowance- some say that children should be given chores as members of the household while others say that it's good to connect work and payment. Do what's comfortable for your family and be consistent in the approach you decide to follow. I've started to enlist my son in helping me pick up his toys before getting ready for bed.
For older kids, you may introduce them to the house budget or what actually is spent for the household to run smoothly. Show them that there are numerous bills to pay such as electricity, water, internet, cable, plus monthly maintenance fees for vehicles aside from just "gas" money. Your child will opt to help out on his/her own when they know the costs of the comfortable life they are living.
Children can help with the dishes.
Image credit: Pixabay

5. Make sure that they really listen.
According to psychologists, the biggest obstacle in instilling thankfulness is that children are so self-absorbed and practically think that the world revolves around them. They have no clue that parents are people too..with hopes, worries, desires, and thoughts. Children think that we are there to do their bidding. It doesn't come as a surprise as the household today is more children-centered. As a baby, we completely focus on them all the way to the time when they become toddlers and when they are toddlers, they actually think they are the center of the universe. When they become older and are capable of empathy, it does not automatically register because they are so used to being important. Now comes the time to make your child look outside of his world.
A simple solution is talking about the best thing that happened during the day. Have all family members tell what happened during the day. Listen to them with direct eye contact so that the children will mimic you. This sustained focus will guarantee that your child will listen to you because they know you are listening to them. Remember, getting the topic going is one thing but, getting them to really listen to you is another.

Being a parent is the toughest job in the world, don't let people tell you otherwise. You will be a parent your whole entire life. Preparing children for the real world is going to be roller coaster ride with its many highs and lows but, it's definitely worth it. Sometimes we have to be tough on our kids, tough love or so they say. It may be rougher on you but, that's our job as parents. In the long run, when your kids become adults, they'll thank you for it.

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*Credit to Sources:
Frankel, Valerie " Raising a Child Who's Thankful", www.parenting.com
Thomas, Rebecca How to Raise Kinder, Less Entitled Kids", www.metroparent.com





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