Focus on your blessings
Entitlement – this is an issue I have worked on with families for years, but not something I thought I would be dealing with, given that my son is only 22 months old. It all started so innocently. My husband, who is an amazing father, started buying our son Matchbox cars on their special one-on-one outings to the store. It became a special bond between the two of them until he decided if Daddy buys cars, then Mommy should, too. However, Mommy has many more one-on-one outings to the store, and a car does not need to be involved in every one. Entitlement- this is something we not only teach our children, but often model in our own actions. There is no better time than Thanksgiving to teach and model gratitude to our children. The first step is to help our children become aware of what they have and be grateful for it. This can be done in many ways. Provide the opportunity for your children to help others by volunteering. Whether it be collecting food for a can drive or picking out some of their toys to donate to children in need, becoming involved allows children to step outside themselves. It is easy to become entitled if our only concern is our own needs and we are never exposed to anything different. Children by nature are selfish, which is why it is up to us as parents to teach gratitude. Gratitude must be modeled. When a child sees a parent dissatisfied and always complaining about not having the best this or that, especially when the neighbor down the street has it, the message will be clear and the behavior will be passed on. We all need to think about the type of messages we are sending to our children. Verbalize to your children what you are thankful for. Provide opportunities for them to tell you. Keep an appreciation journal for your family to write down and share what they are grateful for. One of my favorite Veggie Tales movies – again, I have a 22-month-old – is Madame Blueberry. In it, Madame Blueberry wants more stuff, but in the end she realizes that “being greedy makes you grumpy – but a thankful heart is a happy heart.” Above all, realize that gratitude is not only about material things. It is about family, friends and so much more. One of the reasons this article is so disjointed is that I am writing it from Chicago the day before it is due. I am in Chicago to visit my mother, who is in the hospital after suffering a brain aneurysm. My mother taught me to be grateful, and nothing makes all the unimportant things in life that I have been worrying about more clear than the thought of losing her. Don’t miss all the opportunities around the holiday season to stop and focus on what you are thankful for, and help your children do the same. Jill Dupras is YouthZone’s restorative justice coordinator.
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