My wife and I are having a difficult time teaching our seven-year-old (privileged) son the importance of being thankful. We would like to know if you can offer advice on how we can we teach him gratitude. He takes his belongings for granted, doesn’t understand the value of things we pay for, and generally doesn’t realize how good he’s got it. How can we help him appreciate the life we’re providing for him?
As with everything in life that we want to teach our children, it all begins with one thing – EXAMPLE. Parents have to use every opportunity to express gratitude to everyone and for everything, especially to each other. Even if you are expected to bring home a paycheck and your wife has to do the wash, that does not excuse a lack of thankfulness. Make it a point to verbalize your words of gratitude in front of him. You found a parking spot easily? He got new school sneakers and a backpack? You bought him holiday outfits? Let the words “Thank You!” permeate your home.
We are taught to begin each day with the prayer of “Modeh Ani” – “Thank You Hashem for another day.” This becomes a mindset. Actively teach your son to start his morning with these words. Also, a beautiful way to end each day is to teach him to thank Hashem for his blessings before he goes to sleep. This will become a positive awareness that you should help him cultivate as he grows. There’s no question that daily thanks compels us to feel joy – “Look what the Creator of the Universe did for ME today!”
If he’s really stubborn about expressing gratitude, try another approach. We know that “takers” in life are naturally unhappy. They are always expecting more and more and are never satisfied. Children who do not make “giving” a part of their life grow up demanding and arrogant. Have him pitch in and see what it’s like to help cut up a salad, put away the toys, set the table, and bring the groceries in from the car. If you nudge him out of his selfie universe, he will slowly learn to value and cherish what everyone else does for him rather than just expecting more presents.
And when he asks, “Why do I have to do all these things? None of my friends do!” – just tell him it’s because you love him more than anything or anyone in the world and you want him to be happy. Hopefully he’ll respond, “Oh, okay. Thank you!”