We live in a give, give, and give some more culture–especially when it comes to our kids. I’ll be the first to admit that I lavished gifts onto my kids. After all, I wanted them to have all the things that I just knew would make them delighted!
And then there were all the activities. As a mom I did what most of us do, I gave, gave, and gave some more — every opportunity that I thought would expand my kid’s horizons and let them explore their dreams to reach their potential.
But are our kids grateful? Do they have an attitude of thankfulness?
Sometimes as parents I think our view of parenting is skewed. We think that if we give more to our kids they will feel loved and will auto-magically (by the way that’s our family’s coined word) be thankful. In reality, when we don’t teach our kids to understand gratitude, when they become older teens and young adults they sometimes have difficulty learning the harsh realities of life that everything will not magically come to them.
As I hear the numerous stories about teen suicide I can’t help but wonder if we as parents are perhaps missing the point. Trust me when I say that mental illness can be a huge factor in these deaths. However, could there be a component to these situations where we’ve placed so much emphasis on us giving and our kids receiving that we’ve forgotten how to teach our children to have an attitude of gratitude? They can’t see the positives because they become so focused on what others have that they don’t.
Does giving too much create a negative pattern of thinking that makes kids feel they deserve everything they want?
I’m not sure we’ll ever fully understand how our kids think; however, researchers have found that the brain can actually be rewired as a result of actively choosing gratitude. In fact, anxiety and depression are reduced as a result of being thankful.
Imagine that if instead of focusing on what we are giving this holiday season we helped our kids focus on the things for which they can be grateful. What if we did the same? Maybe we would all have a rewired brain that focuses on the good.
Here are some ways you might consider helping your kids move to a new way of thinking to change their attitude:
- Have each person in the family make a list of five things they are grateful for before they go to bed at night. By doing it at night we are helping our kids focus on the positives as they sleep. (Hopefully they’ll wake up in a better mood). Then share those things at the dinner table the next day.
- At least once a month have each person go around the table telling why they are thankful for each person at the dinner table. Thanksgiving might be a great day to start. Most likely it will bring lots of hugs.
- Identify a “cause” that your family can focus on during the next several months — cook for a homeless shelter, visit a rehab center bringing small homemade gifts, raise money to buy goats or chickens for an oversees orphanage, adopt a less fortunate family for Christmas, or babysit for a single mom are just a few ways to get the focus off our teens and help them see the difference in what is and what could be.
- Actively choose to spend less on presents during the Christmas season and create more opportunities to just be together. Plan a holiday calendar of one-on-one time between each family member — mom and son date, mom and daughter date, dad and son date, dad and daughter date, as well as brother and sister dates.
Helping our kids discover that they have lots to be thankful for can help our kids become healthier adults with fewer expectations of what the world owes them. The result will be a better attitude.
1 Timothy 4:4-5
Dare you to be intentional during the holiday season teaching your teens the true meaning of generosity and gratitude.
“Let go…and Let God”,
Looking for a way to get Dad more engaged? Hoping that he will be intentional in connecting with his tweens and teens? 365+ Ways to Love Your Family: Practical Tips for Dads of Tweens and Teens is a short, easy to read book with practical suggestions that will help dads have impact with their kids. Even if your husband isn’t one to pick up a book to read, this will spark his interest. There are over 365 things he can do, in 5 minutes or less, that will let his kids know that they are loved.
Why not put it under the Christmas tree or use it as a stockingstuffer? It’s a great little reminder to Dad at how important he is in your family.