You’ve probably seen examples of it all around you. This strange phenomenon where certain kids think the universe revolves around them. Some people call it the Me Epidemic, and it isn’t cute.

While “me-me-me” kids are hard enough to deal with now, imagine when they grow up and become demanding, high-maintenance adults that aren’t equipped to handle life when things don’t go their way. None of us wants that for our children.

How do we raise grateful kids in a society where there’s an attitude of entitlement? Gratitude and appreciation are not taught in a single lesson. Rather they are learned, over time, through daily teaching moments.

But the good news is that gratitude can be taught! All it takes is a few simple changes in parenting to lead our kids away from entitlement to appreciation.

Reality Check For Parents

We can point fingers and try to blame television, social media, and other outside influences, but one of the biggest factors in the spread of the “me epidemic” is us.

Most children are mini versions of their parents. It can be an uncomfortable process, but if you want to raise grateful kids – start by doing a reality check of your own life.

First, ask yourself these questions:

Am I spoiling my child? 
Do I think my child deserves preferential treatment over other kids?
Do I feel entitled to certain things in my own life?

Be honest with yourself. And it’s okay if you answered yes to one, or all of these questions. You want to get a baseline of where you’re starting, so you know what to work on.

The Science Of Entitlement

There is a relatively new field of research called behavioral economics that explores the sometimes irrational ways people make decisions and view the world.

Understanding how these thought patterns work can help us raise kinder, less entitled children. Here are some key concepts to consider in your quest to raise grateful kids.

The Fundamental Attribution Error:
This is the tendency people have to attribute other people’s actions to their character, but when we do something we blame outside forces.
 
So if someone cuts you off in traffic, they’re an idiot and a horrible driver. Whereas if you cut someone off, you’re just late for an important meeting.
 
How You Can Use This:
Next time your kids are complaining about someone, ask them to think about what that person may have gone through, or how they might be feeling.
 
“Maybe he took that cookie because he hasn’t eaten all day and he was really hungry.” Kids stop immediately seeing others as “bad”, and start feeling empathy. This puts them on the path to gratitude.
 
Hedonic Adaptation:
This is the way in which humans can become used to almost anything if they’re exposed to it often enough.
 
So if you always clean your kid’s room, or buy them a milkshake after soccer practice – they will come to expect that will happen all the time. They’ll feel entitled to it.
 
How You Can Use This:
Anything you do regularly will become the norm, so really think about where you want to set the bar. If you want a certain activity to be a special treat, then frame it that way and stick to it.
 
“We’ll celebrate with a milkshake after your last soccer game of the season” rather than doing it every game and making it seem like a regular activity.
 
Also In Beenke:
The Identifiable Victim Effect:
This is the tendency to respond with more empathy to individuals that are suffering rather than a large group.
 
How You Can Use This:
Being aware of this tendency can help you when you’re considering community service activities for your family. Kids will have more empathy if you help real people they can identify with.
 
So instead of giving money to a nameless charity, think about adopting a family in need, or providing supplies to local foster children. It will be more impactful to your kids.
 
how to raise grateful kids in an overly entitled world
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8 Ways To Raise Grateful Kids 

“We tend to forget that happiness doesn’t come as a result of getting something we don’t have, but rather of recognizing and appreciating what we do have.”Frederick Keonig 

 

1. Expect More From Your Kids

Give your kids a little credit. They are perfectly capable of doing things for themselves and your family. Research indicates that people are actually more motivated to do things as part of a social transaction than a financial one.

Frame chores as needed contributions that matter to the family. Not a job they have to do to get paid, which implies they can quit at anytime.

Related: Why Chores HelpKids More Than You Know

If you hold your kids to a higher standard and expect them to handle their family responsibilities, they will often meet or exceed your expectations. Your kids feel good, and you’re doing your part to raise helpful human beings.

2. Treat Others Fairly

If you’ve been guilty of treating your child as though they are above other kids, it might be time for a change. Kids will internalize an entitled attitude and think they deserve preferential treatment all the time.

Be fair to everyone you interact with. Don’t put your child ahead of anyone else. If you treat people equally, your child will learn other people matter as much as they do.

3. Speak The Language Of Gratitude

It seems so simple, but sometimes we forget. When your kids do something kind or helpful, say “thank you” to them. Children learn to appreciate others by being appreciated.

Thank them for clearing the table, or taking out the trash. Also be sure they hear you thanking the people around you.

Thank your partner for making dinner, thank your neighbor for getting your mail. Kids learn by watching. When they see you being thankful, they will be too.

In addition, try adding an empathy phrase to your thank you’s to show your kids that you recognize they’re being thoughtful and caring.

Say things like “that shows you care” or that shows how considerate you are” when they do something helpful. They will begin to make the connection between their actions and gratitude.

4. Call Them Out When They’re Being Entitled

This doesn’t mean you should shame your kids, or give them a lecture on how ungrateful they are. Gently remind them when they’re taking something for granted.

For example, if they’re complaining about the dinner you just cooked, your response could be something like, “I think you meant to say thank you for taking the time to cook for me”. Make them stop and think about the effort that goes into something before rolling their eyes or complaining.

how to raise grateful kids in an overly entitled world
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5. Hold Your No

Do you ever find yourself saying YES when you want to say NO in order to appease your whining child? Now is the time to stop giving in to their demands. We often overindulge our kids in order to avoid disappointment, but here’s a newsflash…

Your kids don’t need to get everything that they want.

Just let that sink in for a minute. By saying “no” and sticking to it you’re teaching your kids that life won’t always go their way…and that’s OKAY. You are establishing healthy boundaries.

6. Teach About The Less Fortunate

Give your kids some perspective. Educate them about how other children live both around the world and in your own area. Let them see the struggles of others so they appreciate they things they have.

Amy McCready, author of “The Me, Me, Me, Epidemic: A Step-by-Step Guide To Raising Capable, Grateful Kids in an Over-Entitled World”, notes that:

“We need to uncenter our children’s universe and get them to think outside themselves. When they do this, children begin to see it’s not all about them.”

7. Give Back

Create opportunities for your child to give back to others that are in need. Establish “do good” days in your house where you actively help other people in your neighborhood. Have kids donate their toys to a family in need when they outgrow them.

Get the kids involved in charity work, keeping the “identifiable victim effect” in mind. Choose ways to give back where your kids can “see” the people they are helping, which makes it more meaningful.

Go to a shelter to serve food, adopt a family for Christmas…seeing the individuals being helped makes gratitude real for kids.

8. Establish A Daily Gratitude Practice

Encourage your kids to find things they are thankful for, every day. Make it a part of your nightly dinnertime or bedtime routine. Older kids can keep a gratitude journal if that works for them. You want to make it a regular practice to notice the little things we often take for granted.

Related: Amazing Benefits Of Teaching Mindfulness To Children

The research is clear; people who approach life with an attitude of gratitude are happier, less stressed, and more resilient. Gratitude is the antidote to entitlement. Follow these steps to raise grateful kids, and watch them grow into caring adults you can be proud of.

 

 

 

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