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Humor@Home: Teaching Children to Be Thankful

My Spoiled Caterpillars Who Will One Day Become Grateful Butterflies


My Spoiled Caterpillars Who Will One Day Become Grateful Butterflies–

Teaching Children to Be Thankful

By Julie Willis, Bakersfield Mom of Two

Oh, a child’s journey toward thankfulness. I, of course, am grateful for everything I have. That is because I am an adult. At some point in my life, I metamorphosed from a bratty toddler who thought the world revolved around her into an appreciative adult. I just do not remember how it happened. I wish I remembered. That way, I could sort of nudge my children in the right direction.

Instead, when they receive a gift, I am mortified to hear, not, “Thank you,” but things like, “I already have that,” or “Why did SHE get a shirt with a HORSE on it, and my shirt just has polka dots and words?” When my children say things like this, I want to crawl under a rock and wait for them to turn into real people. Ahem. “Say ‘thank you,’” I mutter quietly to the offending child while smiling shamefacedly at the giver, who is either offended or laughing. (It is the ones without children who are offended, of course. Or perhaps the ones with fully-developed human beings for children, who do not need to be trained in lessons of tact and grace. I haven’t personally met any of those children, but I imagine there might be some, somewhere. If you have one, be grateful.)

Presumably, it is not human nature to appreciate what we have. We tell our children to “say thank you,” but what does it mean? How can they learn to appreciate anything when they actually have everything they need? When someone breaks something in our house, one of my children will invariably comment, “That’s ok; we can just get another one.” As if it were that easy. Recently, one of our dogs was poisoned, and the first thing my kids asked, in unison, was, “When can we get another dog?” (The dog recovered. We are not getting another dog.)

One thing my daughter, Samantha, does appreciate is milk. When she was a newborn, she was failing to thrive. When we finally got things settled and she was getting enough milk, she became insatiable in her craving for milk. She became round and fat, and I did not care when people called her “gordita” because I remembered how it felt when that doctor looked me in the eye and said, “If you don’t do something now, this baby is going to die.” 

Milk became Samantha’s whole world because she did not always have enough. Is that what it takes? Do we have to suffer in order to appreciate what we have? I don’t think so. It may just be a matter of finding another way. Suffering is one way to elicit gratefulness in people. But empathy may be another. I recently read the book I Am Malala (by Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai, the young advocate for girls’ education who stood up to the Taliban) with Samantha, and she responded by confessing that maybe she (a self-proclaimed hater of school) was glad she had to go to school after all. 

I will be looking for more ways to help my children become empathetic. It is not so much that I want them to hurry up and act like adults with perfect graciousness; it is just so dang embarrassing when they say things like, “That’s not what I wanted.”

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Tags: Parenting

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