How to Raise Kids with an Attitude of Gratitude during the Holidays
Are kids naturally greedy? Or is there something about the holidays that brings it out? How seriously should we as parents take this attitude?
The holiday season represents a special and unique time of the year for adults and children alike. For many adults, the holidays can bring about feelings of pressure and stress when too much focus is placed on the numerous tasks which must be accomplished in order to have a successful holiday. For these adults, a conscious shift in perspective that refuels an attitude of gratitude can help tremendously in bringing back the joyous feelings of the holidays. The same goes for our children. It is quite easy, as a child, to become encapsulated by the material nature of our holidays as depicted by the numerous presents under the tree, or the gift-based classroom celebrations occurring before the holiday break. The enjoyment experienced when receiving and opening a gift is a very reinforcing feeling for both adults and children. This feeling is natural. An attitude of gratitude is a higher-order emotion that is learned behavior. Teaching kids to be grateful is an important lesson that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives.
· What (if anything!) can parents do to prevent greediness popping up in kids around the holidays?
The most important thing parents can do to prevent ungrateful children around the holidays is to model appreciation and provide children with the opportunities to experience this emotion first hand. Provide children with opportunities to learn what it means to be thankful, thoughtful, and giving in ways that they will relate to such as taking toys and baked cookies to homeless shelters that house families. Another idea is to host family nights that center around themes of generosity by watching inspirational movies that teach gratitude (i.e. Pay It Forward, The Blind Side, The Ultimate Gift, Home Alone, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, etc.).
· If you've got a Veruca Salt on your hands who is asking for more, more, more, is it too late? What can you do to tamp down the gimme gimmes? How do you deal with an ungrateful child?
It is never too late to teach your children about gratitude. Tampering down the gimme gimmes requires helping children shift their perspectives to become more aware of what they have, possibly in relation to others less fortunate, or in relation to what it took to receive what they currently have. This requires us, as parents, to also be mindful of our response to the holiday season. When we start becoming overwhelmed with the hustle and bustle of to-do lists, we can remind ourselves of the same lessons we are teaching our children.
· What about kids who wait to show this ugly side until the gift opening has begun? Any tips for parents when their kids display jealousy over siblings' or friends' gifts?
This too, is not uncommon. The event of gift-opening can be the epitome of materialistic encapsulation for a child. Shifting that hyper-focus from materialism to gratitude can be done through gentle reminders of what was learned during recent gratitude events (such as family movie night, baking cookies for the homeless, taking toys to children, etc.), by talking about the history or story behind the holiday (such as “The Story of Christmas”), or teaching gift etiquette. One way to do this is to focus gift-opening on giving rather than on receiving and allow each gift-giver a moment to tell each gift-receiver how special he or she is and share gratitude for him or her prior to presenting a gift.
Written by Dr. Andria Hernandez
Dr. Andria Chatfield-Hernandez is the Director of Clinical Training for the College of Counseling, Psychology and Social Science at Argosy University Los Angeles, California.
Dr. Chatfield-Hernandez is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist with a Private Practice in Yorba Linda, California.
The information and opinions expressed herein represent the independent opinions and ideas of Dr. Andria Chatfield-Hernandez and do not represent the opinions and ideas of Argosy University.