Inside: How to raise grateful kids in an ungrateful world – 3 Quick Fixes and a New Way to open their eyes to how lucky they are.
We’re lucky enough to live in a community where the median household income is high, crime rates are low, and schools are exemplary.
Sounds perfect until you realise “please” and “thank you” are out of fashion. And “I need” and “I want” are the order of the day.
Big kids cruise in their BMWs, snap-chat on their iPhones, and pout beneath their Gucci sunglasses (while looking down their noses at everyone else).
How on earth are we supposed to raise grateful kids when this is what they see around them?
We can’t just blame the big kids though
Some adults think they’re above everyone else too. I appealed to the school PTO to provide our ‘economically disadvantaged’ children with free books.
With a self-satisfied smirk, one of the members said:
“No! Children need to learn the difference between the Haves and the Have Nots.”
I’m amazed (and slightly disappointed) I didn’t PUNCH her in the face.
And I’m not even the punching type. I wasn’t asking for cool sneakers or trips to Disneyland. I was asking for books. Speechless.
Around 30% of the kids at my son’s school are the so-called ‘Have Nots’.
Why am I so passionate about getting them books? There’s a direct correlation between the number of books in a child’s home and the likelihood of them finishing school. A “dozen books to call [their] own” can free a child from poverty.
BOOKS are a NECESSITY.
This is not a lesson any child needs to learn the hard way.
I want, I want, I want: 3 quick fixes
Many of us give our children whatever they want if we can.
We’re guilty. Thankfully our seven-year-old still says please and thank you (most of the time), but it’ll be our fault if he develops a sense of entitlement when he’s older.
Equally guilty? 3 QUICK FIXES for the next time your kids want something:
- Say “No” to some things
- Make them wait till birthdays (or other gift-giving occasions) for others
- Ask them to earn half the money for everything else
They’ll soon learn to value the things they currently take for granted.
But it WON’T help them understand how lucky they are to have wholesome food, comfortable shoes, and books to transport them to another world – the bare necessities of life.
Sometimes you need a new approach
We need a way to help our children (and that woman) appreciate the difference between the Haves and the Have Nots.
I recently read the eye-opening Reading Picture Books
to With Children, which encourages kids to think about all aspects of a book, from its layout to its typeface, and beyond.
I’m excited about reading aloud again! (All dedicated storytellers NEED this book.)
It turned out to be the perfect companion.
It’s the journey and the destination
I read Last Stop on Market Street with a crowd of seven-year-olds.
My job was to get them to talk about what they could see during the reading. If your children (like mine) usually wait until the end to pitch in, then it may take them a while to warm up.
We accompanied CJ and his nana on the bus across town from their church to the soup kitchen where they help serve food every Sunday lunchtime.
To start I asked open-ended questions, and by the third page the kids
shouted enthusiastically shared their ideas unprompted.
One of them noticed that the people don’t have eyes on some pages. I’d read the book many times before and never spotted this.
Another child rolled his eyes and blamed it on a “printer’s error” (what a brilliantly practical explanation).
The eagle-eyed child who saw it in the first place thought it was because we hadn’t met the people yet.
Light bulb moment.
Perhaps we only truly see people once we take the time to get to know them. And they see us.
Sometimes we need a helping hand
The kids were also keen to point out how much CJ whines. He even complains about how dirty the soup kitchen neighbourhood is. Nana’s response is pure wonder:
“Sometimes when you’re surrounded by dirt, CJ, you’re a better witness for what’s beautiful.”
Wow! Isn’t that the truth?
Maybe that’s the problem with living in a neighbourhood like ours, where all signs of poverty are hidden behind closed doors, and wealth is conspicuous – we stop noticing all the good stuff.
The last stop makes all the difference
At the end of the book we get to meet a few of the soup kitchen regulars:
When [CJ] spotted their familiar faces in the window, he said, “I’m glad we came.”
And I’m glad we went along for the ride.
Hands up if you’re feeling grateful
Perhaps it’s the Haves who really need free books? I don’t know whether this book would have any impact on that woman’s children, but it opened my son’s eyes.
He wanted to volunteer at a soup kitchen. I love that he asked. And I’m sure it would be a valuable experience. But Bobo and friends deserve a long-term commitment, which we’re not in a position to make.
We found another way to help, though. Project Night Night provides homeless children in the US with ‘Night Night Packages’: a security blanket, a book (happy face!), and a stuffed animal. Love.
Check out their fun kids’ fundraising ideas.
Not only has my son started thinking of others, but we’ve also seen a change in behaviour. At a recent Lego festival, he didn’t ask for anything. Not. One. Single. Tiny. Brick.
He came home and read a book. Happy days!
If you want to raise grateful kids in an ungrateful world, start implementing the 3 Quick Fixes, and listen to them talk about what they see in Last Stop on Market Street.
Find Tips & Tricks to get you started with the Whole Book Approach. I’d love to hear what your kids come up with. Prepare to be amazed and amused!
With any luck, we’ll prevent that self-satisfied smirk from ever forming. And save me from punching anyone in the face!
I write about parenting problems and the picture books we used to solve them. Don’t want to miss a post? Sign up for Reading is Better than Chocolate email updates using the box below.
Let’s raise HAPPY literate humans!
Do you have any tips and tricks to keep entitlement at bay? I’d love to hear about them in the comments section below.