A lot of us are deeply ungrateful. We live in a society where “more is less” and “enough is never enough.” I am guilty of opening up my fridge and thinking “gee, I sure wish that I could have…(fill in the blank here)” instead of appreciating all of the wonderful foods that are in my fridge. How ungrateful is that given that of us are guaranteed food, water, shelter, clothing or any of the countless blessings bestowed upon us?
Parents' negative attributes and attitudes tend to trickle down to their children. Many times when I see my kids displaying negative behaviors, I try and think "now where did that come from?" So when I cook a lovely dinner for my kids, then place it on the table in front of them, and I hear “Aw Mommy, I don’t feel like eating chick peas a-gain!”, I know that some personal adjustments need to be made. To a large extent, children are products of their environments. And I don’t just mean the world, country, city and neighborhood that a child lives in. Most importantly, I mean the household they are raised in. It may be painful to the ego and embarrassing to admit, but this ungratefulness usually starts at home. Though never intentional, sometimes as parents, we contribute to a general sense of ungratefulness in our children. Then we turn around and wonder why their behaviors don't match our expectations of them! I am trying to instill a sense of gratitude in my children. It is an ongoing process, and I continue to fine-tune the details, but the following what my family continues to work on:
Practice saying “Thank You” – Really! Saying “Thank you” never gets old! Thank the mailman for handing you your mail. Thank your child for cleaning up his or her room. Thank Grandma for babysitting. Thank the grocery store cashier for ringing up your order. Since parents are the first and most influential examples for children, we must always make sure that they see us being thankful and grateful.
You Can’t Have Everything That You Want – There is a saying that goes something like this: “People who are content don’t have everything, they just make the best of everything they have”. Ummmm, hello! So true! In today’s world we are taught to acquire many possessions and still want more. Many times this leads to us not being able to even see the numerous blessings that are right in our hands. This can lead to our wants and desires resembling a bottomless pit. Not good. So not good…I used to buy little treats for my kids while we were at the store. Small things that cost a dollar or less. While we were at the store (usually Target), we would roll our cart through the dollar section just to look around. Then my kids would ask “Mommy can I have…Please!! Please?!”. So I would think: “Hey, you know what it only costs a dollar”, and I would buy it. Then a couple of days later when we would find ourselves back at the store stocking up on diapers, they would ask for another “little treat.” Then the next time they would ask me for the “little treat” ahead of time, like say in the parking lot. Than after a while they began to feel like they were entitled to the “little treat” every time we were at the store. The painful and embarrassing truth is that I was contributing to their sense of entitlement.
Reward System – I stumbled upon the sticker reward system after consulting with my childrens’ teachers about how to use positive reinforcement to discipline children. Basically, they get a sticker (or sometimes two depending on what they are being rewarded for doing) as a reward for completing a task or displaying positive behavior. So being thoughtful towards your sibling could earn you one. Cleaning up your room without Mommy and Daddy having to ask again and again can earn you another, and so on. After earning 15 stickers, Mommy will give you a dollar. You can buy an item of your choice with that dollar. So in short, I have them earn their dollar. The other day my 5 year-old earned her first dollar. She was so happy! She earned that dollar through blood, sweat and tears. So when I finally placed that dollar in her little hand, she felt a sense of accomplishment. I took her to Target, and she bought her very own package of Trident gum. And you know what? Without my prompting, she shared it with her grandmother, sisters, father and myself. I was so proud of her!
Make Good Use of What You Have – My grandmother was and still is the ultimate Queen of Frugal. She is able to find ways to use things that many would consider useless. When I was growing up she would use small scraps of fabric left over from her sewing to make clothing for my favorite doll. She would even knit my doll, Orange Blossom, her own sweater sets! And yes, my dolls were stylin’, thank you very much! She used what she had to make those around her happy. I absolutely loved those doll clothes. They were creative and absolutely one-of-a-kind. I still have some of them, and my own children use them on my old dolls! You see, my mother is also quite frugal and saved my old dolls. She always thought that maybe someday her future grandchildren would want to use them. I did not have her vision. I would tell her “Mom, I so do not ever want those, please throw them away. I will buy my kids new dolls”. In spite of the fact that my kids have other dolls, my old ones are among their favorites!
Keep Your Eyes on Your Blessings – Sometimes we can be oblivious to numerous blessings because we are busy counting our sister’s/brother’s/cousin’s/neighbor’s/friend’s/co-worker’s blessings. It can start off small like “Aw gee, you are so lucky because you have…(fill in the blank)”. If we continue to count the blessings of those around us, we begin to spend less time taking note of our own. This leads to ungratefulness, envy and dissatisfaction. And of course, your own blessings go unnoticed!