Cornucopia means “filled to overflowing,” so you may think having “cornucopia kids” is a good thing, right? What could be wrong with having abundance? Actually, it’s not necessarily the abundance your children enjoy that is concerning, but the attitude of entitlement that sometimes goes along with the abundance.
Let me give you an example of where the trouble might come in. When our kids were younger, ages seven, five and one, I remember taking them to a casual restaurant for a treat. We didn’t eat out often, so this was a special event. As I sat there praying all would go well, the waiter came up to take our order. When he got around to the two older ones they insisted on pop for their drinks. When my husband and I said no, mayhem broke out. The realization that our kids had an attitude of entitlement was shocking. How had this happened?
Clearly, we hadn’t taught our children enough about the importance of being grateful. That’s a tough lesson — teaching children gratitude but still allowing them to have abundant lives. I believe that abundance is wonderful, it’s what my husband and I want in our lives. Not just for material wealth, but for emotional, spiritual and physical health.
I think there are a lot of parents in the same situation.
After all, parents naturally prompt young children to say “thank you,” believing that means they’re thankful. Wrong. Children under age five really don’t understand those “polite” words. They may say it because you want them to, but that is about as far as it goes. For kids over five, teaching them to be grateful is more important than teaching them the words “thank you.” Here are a few ideas that may help:
Show your own gratitude. I feel so grateful that every morning I can walk to the kitchen, open a full refrigerator, pour a cup of hot coffee and wake up three healthy kids. Do they hear me speak my gratitude? Not often enough. Let your kids know how thankful you are for what you enjoy in your life, and they’ll model your behavior.
Curb material spending. Every time you step through the doors of a big-box store, it doesn’t mean you need to buy the latest Barbie or Tonka truck or even a pack of gum. Your children don’t need the item, that’s not true abundance, and the message we are sending is not one of gratitude but one of entitlement. If they really want a certain toy, show them save up for it.
Support others. Gratitude comes more easily when we realize just how much we have, and not just materially. If I can give my time to someone, feed them, help them, I soon realize how blessed I am. When one of our kids has a piano recital or just a homework question, the siblings support each other. There have been moments when they argue and don’t want to, but teaching gratitude is teaching giving of yourselves to others. Showing kids the value of volunteering and giving to their friends, family and community are essential. How can our kids ever know the abundance of time, talent or treasure they have, unless they see that others don’t have it?
— Lori Mueller is the executive director at YouthZone, a local agency that works with youth who want tools to succeed and parents who want to raise more responsible kids; visit www.youthzone.com.