Two Ways to Teach Your Child to be more Grateful

16 Dec 2015

As a parent, somedays, especially during the holidays, you can’t help feeling that children seem so entitled.

It is tough to watch our children want everything, expect to get it and then be upset if they don’t. We need to remember that this is normal. It is hard to not get something when you want it. One of our jobs as a parent is to teach children to delay gratification and exhibit self-control. Once we can do that we will see a bit more gratitude and less entitlement.

What can we do as parents? How can we teach our children to delay gratification and show self-control?

  1. You already do this:

According to Courtney Evenchik, a school psychologist, the simple games that we play with our kids and that our kids play with other children have the hidden benefit of teaching self-control. Most children play games like Simon Says, Freeze Dance and Red Light-Green Light.

In these games, children need to stop and think before they act. How does this help? We hope that it will transfer over into other situations. When children see a toy that they want, but they know that they are not going to get it, they need to deal with their feelings of disappointment and respond appropriately. This means that they are able to keep their difficult feelings under control.

  1. Give them what they want:

As we mentioned above, children do have difficulties controlling themselves. We can help them gain self-control and learn to appreciate what they have by helping them work towards getting what they want.

For example, if a child wants designer sneakers or an iPod, tell them: “Sure, I would love to get that for you! I am willing to pay half (or whatever you are willing to pay). Do you want to save your allowance or wait to use your Chanukah money to pay for the rest?”

In this way, you are letting them know that you understand their wants and needs, however, they need to contribute in order to get what they want. They will also take better care of their things if they have paid for it.

Even younger kids can benefit from this approach. At a Chanukah party a week ago, one of the children wanted a balloon that was decorating the room. He was on the verge of a tantrum, before his mother told him: “You want a balloon so badly. The balloons are decorating the room for the party. Let’s go ask the lady in charge if we can have a balloon, after the party is over.” She took her young child to the woman in charge of the party and said: “My son really wants a balloon; they are so nice. Would we be able to take a balloon when the party is over?”

After being told that she could, the mother and her child picked out the balloon that they would take when the party was done. In this way, she took her son’s request seriously, gave her son what he wanted and also helped teach him self-control and to delay gratification in a kind way.

Teaching kids to be grateful can be tricky, but if we help teach them self- control we are on our way to having less entitled kids.

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.