Emergency Attitude

Volunteer your child and yourself to do some type of charitable work, such as playing with children in a homeless shelter, reading to the blind, building low-cost housing, or delivering meals to the housebound. Expose your child to those who have far less comfort, convenience, and material resources than she does. Such hands-on face-to-face experiences with poverty, deprivation, or misfortune can go a long way in helping your child appreciate everything with which she's been blessed. She may also come to realize that happiness doesn't necessarily depend on material possessions.

Studies suggest that we are producing a large population of spoiled, ungrateful kids who always seem to want more and are never quite satisfied with what they have. There are a number of factors that keep our kids from developing gratitude. For starters, we have relentless consumption-driven media that push kids to think they need more; a hectic-paced lifestyle that leaves little time to help kids count their blessings; the sometimes overwhelming impact of troubling news that focuses on the bad parts of life instead of helping kids appreciate the good. In addition, we live in a society in which busy, guilt-ridden parents bribe their kids with hoards of stuff every time they want them to do something or out of guilt for not being home much. Sometimes with the best intentions, we try to give our kids everything we always wanted and never had. Or our competitive instincts compel us to keep up with the Joneses, so we lavish our kids with the latest and best of everything.The result is a family culture that expects only the finest things in life and takes for granted a lifestyle that cannot be attained by the other 99 percent of the planet. But are our kids grateful? No.Are they jaded by a grandiose sense of entitlement? Yes.And who did this to them? We did.

This pervasive attitude of ingratitude must be reversed. Sowing the seeds of gratitude not only curtails selfishness and jealousy, but is also an integral part of raising happy, emotionally fulfilled children. Research tells us that the happiest kids are the ones who feel a sense of appreciation for life—regardless of wealth, health, or personal circumstances. One thing is clear: you must replace your child's ungrateful bad attitude with the virtues of gratitude, thankfulness, and courtesy. And the sooner you begin, the better.

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