In today’s world, we have grown to expect instant gratification. Our patience has weakened to a point where Amazon’s two day delivery feels dreadfully long and if waiting for Google results takes more than 3 seconds, we think we may need to replace our aging computer.
Something I’m always thinking about is: how can I teach my children to be thankful in this world of expectation and immediate satisfaction? You don’t have to look around very long to see people modeling entitlement, but what about the people who are quiet in their contentment?
After surveying some families, we’ve found some helpful ways to start these conversations within your daily routine.
1. Ask you child - "Is this a big problem, or a little problem?"
At a young age, it is easy for kids to get overwhelmed by disappointments that may seem to be earth shattering to them, but in reality those problems can be quite small and insignificant. In those moments it can be helpful to ask your child “is this a big problem, or a little problem?”. Discuss with your child some examples of big problems and little problems so they can begin to differentiate and hopefully reach an understanding of where their problem stands in the grander scheme of things. Helping children to see that their problem is not as big and scary as they believe it to be can help calm their anxious hearts, too.
2. Say Thank You!
This may sound simple, but teaching your children the importance of a simple “Thank You” can go a long way. Go beyond the routine thank you’s by explaining to your kiddos the real meaning and purpose to why we say these two simple words. It can be a response to when someone gives you something but also when someone does something kind and helpful for you.
3. A Caring Heart.
This isn’t about them becoming poster children of generosity, but simply having conversations about what it means to be kind towards others. One mom we spoke to shared,
“Every morning when I say goodbye to my son before he goes to school, I always tell him to not only be a good listener, but to also be a good friend.”
Start conversations with your children about what it means to be a good friend. Sometimes caring means simply asking someone who looks lonely to play. Caring is mostly being mindful towards other’s needs and feelings.
4. Limiting possessions.
Kids actually do better with fewer possessions. Studies have shown they are less anxious, more content, and able to play independently better. They are also more grateful.
All of this “stuff” can send a message to children that our possessions are what bring satisfaction... One of the families we spoke with shared that within their home they tried to keep possessions limited, and deemed a majority of toys be shared with others including siblings and friends.
5. Praying for others.
Praying allows us to say “Thanks God!” for what we have. We model appreciation when we pray aloud with our kids. Pray for those you meet throughout the day; the Starbucks barista, families at the park, or teachers. Make it a point to express the value of others you meet throughout the day. This habit can create a heart of thankfulness in your kids for those who serve and help them.
As parents we hope and pray for our children to grow up into human beings who love others well and have especially grateful hearts. Start small and don’t overwhelm yourself with the desire to have all the conversations at once! No one can “do it all” perfectly so rest in the truth that you’re instilling this big idea through small actions in the day to day!