The Entitlement Antidote: Gratitude

If you are like me, you probably would say that you want to give your kids the world. I mean, as you look at it, love is that way. You want to provide for them and give them all that they need.

However, if you are also like me, you have a big problem with attitudes of entitlement. This attitude is defiant to my personal belief that everything in life is a gift and is not owed to you.

The idea for this post came from reading my daughter’s and son’s wish list letter to Santa. Instead of a standard letter format with storied content, it read more like an order fulfillment request. They are young but are just at the age where they can start to think of others instead of solely themselves.

So there is the rub for this post. I want to give my kids the world, but I do not want them to develop even a smidge of an entitled feeling. During the holidays, this can prove very hard to do as I want my kids to experience a magical Christmas with lots of stuff under the tree. So how do we give them stuff without the development of an entitled mind? Gratitude.

The entitled mind says I deserve this, or I am owed this. The grateful mind says everything I receive is a gift.

(In my research to develop some good ideas to help them shift their attitude, I came across a great book: Dr. Robert A Emmons: The Little Book of Gratitude. According to Dr. Emmons, the attitude of gratitude has many other benefits besides being a well-adjusted person. Gratitude boosts the immune system, improves sleep, lowers depression, and helps with feelings of compassion.)

How will I battle the “get me” attitude and assist my kids with developing gratitude? Thank you cards/notes!

Thank you notes go beyond the standard lip service of please and thank you. Great thank you notes should express the following:

  • Point out intention– The receiver can identify and express the intent of why the gift was given. “Thank you so much for footballWe were never able to find the one that we lost, and now we can play again…”
  • Cost– Cost comes down to time and money….what did the person give up to make this gift happen? The key point here is to recognize that the cost of a thing ($) is not the only cost (time, effort). “I can’t believe that you were able to track down the popular doll. It was sold out everywhere; I bet you had to travel to a lot of stores….”
  • How it helps you– Identifying how this will benefit your life or enhancing your life shows that we are all dependent on others. “Now that I have the new art set, I can paint pictures that I could only imagine before…”

Depending on how old your kids are, I want to point out that they may not articulate what has been outlined above. In these cases, it is quite all right to map it out for them. It has been my experience that I have received a handwritten card or letter any time it is a gift unto itself. The recipient won’t care too much about how it was created and is more likely to be grateful for it. For younger children, have them sign their name or draw a picture. For older children, push them to find their own words of gratitude.

Taking time to handwrite a card is a wonderful practice in grateful contemplation. It slows down the world and allows the child to appreciate the moments in which things are good. They may not feel it at the moment but developing this gratitude attitude will greatly enhance their lives down the road.

Be well


Photo by Aaron Burden via Unsplash

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