TEACHING KIDS APPRECIATION
When I first became a parent I didn’t think about some of the difficulties that would come with raising children. As a new parent, my mind was flooded with thoughts of giggling babies, family vacations, kids excited for the holidays, and being a hero in their eyes. Because that is how parenthood starts out, with children who look up to you and rely on you for all of their needs. And in their eyes, you are number one and the best thing ever in their life. I never thought I’d need to teach kids to appreciate things that should be seemingly natural.
Then the hardships of sleepless nights and colicky babies set in as a new parent. From there, are the toddler tantrums and biting stages. And as they get older and become more independent, the hero image and exciting appreciation feel like it fading. At least for a time. All of a sudden you are raising mini-adults and wondering what to do, questioning how to do it even.
GENERATION Z AND GRATITUDE
But don’t worry, they grow up and become adults and a whole new level of appreciation for you begins! As adults, we know how this works. Do you remember how you were as children and teens? Granted, not all kids are unappreciative all the time nor does this make kids “bad.” But there does seem to be more frequent moments of this in the adolescent and teen years. And bless their hearts, because those are some of the most confusing years!
Kids need to struggle with and for their autonomy, and this will sometimes mean struggling with feelings of entitlement and dependence. Our job as a parent is to help our teens become experts on themselves—including what they feel grateful for—and to help them discover what they want for themselves. – Dr. Michael Riera, Author & Head of School at the Brentwood School
So how do you teach Generation Z the art of appreciation and thankfulness? Teaching children appreciation is hard! And sometimes when you push it, the more they resist.
I don’t know about you, but the more kids complain about not having or getting to do this or that, the less I want to give. I’m still learning how to curb this, understand their thought process, and how to respond. The one thing that I’ve learned the most as a parent, is that teaching kids appreciation starts in the home.
I am not an expert, only a parent. I’ve learned a thing or two over the years and studied childhood development from a psychological view in college when I did a thesis on how narcissism develops during childhood. And the importance of parental involvement is emphasized over and over, and over and over. On repeat, especially for this generation.
BE THE TEACHER
Kids learn by example, and they are watching us. All the time, every day. Even when you think they aren’t. If you’re not incorporating any type of appreciation and thankfulness into your own life, you can’t expect a child to do the same. As adults, it’s our responsibility to teach our children. Not their teachers at school, not the church, not society – it’s the parent’s job.
Kids, teens and even young adults are developmentally self-centered. They see the world primarily from their own point of view until they are offered guidance for how to see it from another’s perspective. School is an excellent place for kids to learn gratitude and empathy. However, research consistently shows that when it comes to raising emotionally healthy kids, parents have a greater impact than any other influence. – Dr. Susan Bartell, child psychologist & parenting expert
Curb the complaining, and start praising the good. I’m guilty of complaining through the hard times and circumstances. It’s easy to do as adults, but again our kids are watching. The best thing we can do as parents is to teach kids to still appreciate and be thankful for everything they have even if it’s not much. And even in rough circumstances.
The best thing we can do as parents is to teach kids to still appreciate and be thankful for everything they have even if it’s not much. And even in rough circumstances.
PROVIDE STRUCTURE & ROUTINE
Children thrive on structure and routine in all circumstances, teaching them something as simple as appreciation is no different. If you’ve established rules and guidelines, stick to those. Children will appreciate this the older they become, even if they don’t realize it now. If you don’t, you’re not allowing your child the opportunity to appreciate you as a parent, or the benefits that structure and stability provide.
GIVE RATHER THAN RECEIVE
Regardless of your financial status or what “class” you are in, the power of giving rather than receiving is fierce. If you raise children with that understanding, it will enrich their lives. Whether, while teaching by example, to give financially to those in need or to give of your time or abilities, it’s all considered giving. Sometimes the best way to start is just by getting kids out there and exposed to life outside of their own world, whether this is through volunteering or community outreaches. Regardless of where your family is in life, there is always another family in a more dire situation. It’s important to remember this.
Being able to feel and express gratitude have been correlated with happiness, optimism and better quality relationships, as well as physical and mental health.- Dr. Susan Bartell, child psychologist & parenting expert
QUALITY OVER QUANTITY
I can’t say this enough (it should be my motto) but quality over quantity is significant! Ten or twenty years from now, your kids aren’t going to remember all the stuff you bought them, but they will remember the time you spent with them. I honestly don’t remember the things I had as a child. (Except maybe my Cabbage Patch Kids because, well, it was the 80s and seemingly important to me as a little girl). But I do remember all of our family vacations together and traditions. And even with vacations, I mostly remember the things we did together, not the things that cost money. Quality over quantity is part of teaching kids an appreciation for time and experiences.
ENFORCE TEAMWORK & INVOLVEMENT
If we are being real as parents, we know that these days it’s easier to put kids in front of a screen rather than the hassle of trying to incorporate and enforce involvement. Or teach them a new skill. I totally get it, because the majority of the time we end up re-doing what we taught them to do. However, how will children ever learn important life skills if they aren’t taught, or if parents take the easier route of just doing everything themselves? And how will kids learn to appreciate what you, and others, do for them if they don’t understand the value of it? Involving them in household chores, planning meals, cleaning up after themselves, taking turns, and enforcing responsibility is great for teaching children appreciation (along with a slew of other things like being responsible, helpful, caring, a sense of accomplishment, etc.) And consistency is key to teaching kids appreciation.
Research has shown that gratitude in kids is associated with all kinds of positive benefits, including increased happiness, optimism, and life satisfaction. More grateful teens are more engaged in their schoolwork and hobbies, and are less envious, depressed, and materialistic, than their less grateful counterparts. Gratitude has also been linked to greater social connection and a sense of community. – Dr. Jull Suttie, Greater Good Science Center, UC Berkeley