“My sons are 2, 8 and 10. In no way have I finished raising my kids nor do I know exactly what will make them “great people.” I am in the trenches with you, figuring it out as I go, desperately leaning on God for wisdom and guidance on how to raise these little beings – with the goal of helping them to become awesome men who will live their lives wholeheartedly for Christ!
[*This is a guest post from a blogger whom I enjoy following. If you like this post, check out her website at www.onlygirl4boyz.com!]
One thing I do see in their lives, as their mother, is that they are incredibly grateful people. Strangers and friends often ask us, “How are they this way?” I have searched to find the answer and I do believe that there are some specific things that we have done which have contributed to their gratitude.
1. We talk to them about kids less fortunate than themselves – some who live around the world and those in their own town.
My husband and I sit our kids down and share poverty statistics with them. We talk about kids in their school, their city and all around the world and explain that these other children may not have the things that they have. We make it personal by showing them documentaries about little kids all over the world who live in poverty. These documentaries (found on HBO, Netflix or Amazon) have been very instrumental in increasing their compassion.
On occasion, we let them watch the news. These news stories continuously display stories of other children and shows them how differently other children can live. We are honest with them about the different situations that many kids face and how fortunate they are to not have those same experiences. They ask questions and we answer truthfully. They will find out about the hard evils in this world and we would like to be the ones who tell them.
We also look for situations to interact and give back to those less fortunate. We use this opportunity to explain poverty and hardship to our boys without sugar-coating our words. This has created evident gratitude in their hearts and has also cultivated a heart of compassion for others.
2. We don’t regularly buy them new things.
My kids do have a lot of toys and I often feel like they have too many. However, most of the toys that they have been from their birthday or Christmas (at least 50% of them weren’t purchased by us.) We don’t buy many toys throughout the year, but if we do, it’s usually for a specific reason.
For instance, we let them pick out something inexpensive at the end of the school year for having good grades or great behavior all year. We should reward those actions! Even when they were very young, they realized quickly that we wouldn’t buy random toys at the store without a reason. It is now VERY rare that they will ask for something when we are there which makes for a smooth shopping experience.
When birthdays, Christmas and the “end of the school year” gifts roll around, our kids are extremely excited and incredibly appreciative of any and every item they receive! If we do ever have a moment where we receive a random gift, they are so stunned and excited (because it’s not the norm) that the result is authentic gratitude.
3. We don’t take them out to eat often.
We are intentional about limiting the amount that we go to restaurants. We also limit how often we take them out to eat fast food or desserts. Because of this, when they do get to go, they are so excited for the experience that we never have to prompt them to say “thank you.” I strongly believe that their manners and behavior have both been impacted by this. Even as 4-year-olds, they behaved very well in restaurants because they saw it as a privilege rather than an expectation.
4. We use our own example to teach them gratitude
Manners are taught in our home at a young age and there are consequences for not using those manners. For example, my son will not get the item that he wants if he doesn’t say “please” or ” thank you.” It is very important to remember that kids model what they see. We ensure that they see my husband and myself using manners with one another and, very importantly, toward them as well. We use the same manners with them that we expect them to use toward us and toward others.
I believe that we can create ungrateful children by giving them way too much way too often. Can we really assume that they’ll have a grateful heart when they aren’t ever expected to? I would encourage you to show them love, not by giving them material items or saying “yes” in response to everything, but by investing in them with your time and attention. Material love is not one that will last nor one that they will remember in adulthood.
As parents, we have the opportunity every day to raise more grateful, compassionate individuals who realize that any blessing they receive is a sacrifice from another person. We are all learning as we go – I hope these tips encourage you in your parenting journey in raising more grateful children!”
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