The holidays remind us just how lucky we are. Despite the hustle and bustle we are reminded of being thankful, giving to others and we want our kids to be reminded as well. Thanksgiving especially, is a time when we want kids to be grateful for what they have and to understand that there are many kids around the world who literally have nothing. When parents hear “GROSS!” when their kids see the stuffing on the Thanksgiving table or “WHY NOT?” when they can’t get a toy, parents wonder if, in this entitled world we live in, kids will ever really appreciate what they have.
Trying to explain to a child that there are starving kids in India will only get you a blank stare and a look of confusion. In my book, Why Smart Kids Worry, I describe why kids don’t get this concept by explaining that a kid’s world is like a snow globe. They think that everything that exists in the world exists in their snow globe. Essentially, if it doesn’t happen to them, it doesn’t exist. That’s why trying to explain gratefulness to kids doesn’t work. Kids are developmentally unable to understand what it feels like to not have food to eat or clothes to wear because they’ve never experienced it themselves.
A better approach is to simply say “No” when you would usually say “Yes.” You don’t have to go into a deep explanation about how you are teaching your child to be grateful. Instead say, “I know you are sad you can’t get a toy, but we aren’t getting one today.” After you do this a few times, kids will stop expecting to get what they want. In fact, they’ll start expecting to not get what they want thus becoming grateful when they do get something. This is a back door approach to gratefulness but with kids, the front door rarely works.
So next time you start trying to explain just how lucky your ungrateful child is, hold your tongue. Save your energy and simply say “No” when you would say the next “Yes.”