The Entitlement Antidote: Gratitude

If you are like me, then you probably would say that you want to give the world to your kids.  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.

Now 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 a 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 the world to my kids 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 come up with 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 a lot of other benefits besides being a well adjusted person. Gratitude boost the immune system, improves sleep, lowers depression and helps with feelings of compassion.)

So how am I going to 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 is able to identify and express the intent of why the gift was given. “Thank you so much for the football. We 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? Key point here is to recognize that the cost of a thing ($) is not the only cost of the thing (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 how it enhances your life shows that we are all dependent on others. “Now that I have the new art set I am able to paint pictures that I could only imagine before…”

I do want to point out that depending on how old your kids are, they may not be able to articulate what is outlined above. In these cases, it is quite all right to map it out for them. It has been my experience that any time I have received a hand written card or letter 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 that time was taken to do 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 hand write a card is 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 in the moment but developing this attitude of gratitude will greatly enhance their lives down the road.

Be well


Photo by Aaron Burden via Unsplash

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