The concept of “entitlement” has been a buzzword in the parenting world over the past decade. Experts and parents alike agree that more and more children are expecting to get what they want, when they want—no questions asked. The negative consequences of entitlement range from impatience to narcissism to ingratitude.
As parents we recognize that the Lord has asked us to “train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).
If we start early helping children to have a grateful heart, they will become an adult with the same attribute and avoid the entitlement mentality that plagues so many people today.
Here are five ways we can help our children become more grateful:
1. Change of Perspective
Some children don’t understand what they do have until they see what others don’t have. Taking some time to chat with your child about the circumstances of people around the world compared to their own will give them perspective on what blessings they enjoy. In n article entitled, “Gratitude as a Saving Principle,” President James E. Faust stated:
“As with all commandments, gratitude is a description of a successful mode of living. The thankful heart opens our eyes to a multitude of blessings that continually surround us.”
This may also motivate you and your family to participate in some form of service in order to help the less fortunate, whether it be collecting food for the local food bank, or spending time with the lonely.
Another way to change your children’s perspective is to explain to them the work that goes on behind the scenes in order to provide them with the blessings they enjoy. Whether it be understanding the hours dad puts in at work, or the time mom spends planning schedules and carpools, these explanations will help children appreciate what they might typically take for granted.
2. Gratitude Journals
Keeping record of all of our blessings in written form, whether in a journal for the whole family or one kept by each member, is also a great way to encourage thankfulness.
When you get writer’s block with the journal, check out this article from the website Bounceback Parenting. It contains gratitude journal prompts for the whole year. After 365 days of listing their blessings, your children are sure to develop a habit of being grateful.
3. Letters of Gratitude
Whether they are electronic or via “snail mail,” writing notes of appreciation to the people who have blessed our lives will also help cultivate gratitude.
We can think back to teachers, church leaders, or family members who have made a difference in our lives and encourage our children to reach out with a short note of thanks. After all, it’s never too late to say “thank you.”
4. Read Books that Teach Gratitude
Make learning about gratitude fun with an assortment of children’s books on the subject. Kids will see characters express thankfulness for a variety of things in a variety of ways. As parents, we shouldn’t just read quickly through the book with our children, but stop to discuss the principles being taught, i.e. “How is Johnny showing he’s thankful for _____?” “What are you thankful for right now?” “See how happy these characters are when they are saying thank you?”
Although a quick search on the internet will quickly result in lists of books on gratitude, here are some books about gratitude for the young ones. And here’s even a list of reading geared towards parents wanting to develop a more thankful mindset.
5. Lead By Example
When we remember to express our gratitude, both to other people and to the Lord, our children will watch and learn. This is perhaps the most effective way of teaching our children to be thankful.
Simply taking the time to thank the clerk at the grocery store or being more specific in the way we thank Heavenly Father in prayer are both important actions that will show our children what an attitude of gratitude looks like.
As we teach our children gratitude, we will undoubtedly further develop this virtue in our own lives. And being grateful has the ability to lift us to heights beyond the confines of this world, as reflected in these words of President Thomas S. Monson:
“My brothers and sisters, to express gratitude is gracious and honorable, to enact gratitude is generous and noble, but to live with gratitude ever in our hearts is to touch heaven.”
As parents, we have the opportunity to shift the mentality of a society that is veering towards entitlement. Doing these simple things will allow you to make a difference in your children’s lives. And your grandchildren’s. A domino effect will ensue as they move forward to a create future where gratitude abounds in the hearts and minds of young and old alike.
And that sounds pretty millenial-like to me.
How have you had success teaching your children to have grateful hearts? Share your ideas in the comments below!