How to raise Grateful and Thankful children!

When you go visiting a family which has children, the primary instinct is to buy a toy or chocolates for the kid. After all, if the child is happy, the family is happy and it leaves you the  effort of buying something for the other family members. That’s exactly what I did too, until I had a child and everytime relatives and visitors came, my daughter would get a box of chocolates, a soft toy and more. After observing this pattern silently for a couple of months, I had to intervene and tell my family members and relatives visiting us to please stop with the formalities.

It had become a habit where my daughter would expect something for her every time someone came visiting and I knew I had to put an end to this. I know this can be construed by many as rude and arrogant behavior but the truth is, when it comes to laying the rules for my daughter, I am and will always be the decisive maker. 

I have had countless arguments with my husband and other family members as everyone believed I was overreacting a bit too much on small matters like gifts. While I tried making my point clear that it was not the gesture that bothered me but the expectations building in my daughter that I wanted to curb. Instead of appreciating the gifts, it had become a matter-of-fact, obvious ‘ritual’ in greeting people at home and this ‘thankless’ behavior had to be put to a stop. 

Unfortunately, as an only child, my daughter is used to getting everything she wanted. I love to fulfill her small whims and wishes and honestly, like every parent, I want nothing more than making all her dreams come true.  While she was younger, it was still easier to keep a tab on things we purchased for her as she was happy playing with kitchen vessels and a ball pool. 

Now, as she’s growing older and more assertive in her demands, there have been several occasions where I have been swayed by her ‘cute faces’ and ‘please mumma’ and ‘she has it, i don’t have it’ reasons to buy her things which I know she may not use much but wants it momentarily. The eternal parental guilt to try and meet all your child’s expectations is a big problem!

At times, like my husband says, I just don’t know to stop. I try and portray this image of being a strict and tough mother but honestly speaking, I spend the most money on her. I spend all my spare time, planning to buy things for her, have small surprises for her and buy clothes and gifts for her. As a mother, I am a sucker for seeing her smile and her eyes light up when she sees the surprises I plan for her.

However, like every mother, I also want my daughter to be grateful for the things she receives, the life she has and be appreciative for the smaller pleasures in life.  Unlike the life we grew up in, this is a very materialistic world and our kids are never going to be finding pleasure in playing down the society building and eating home made food and cutting a small cake for the birthdays. 

With the changing times, we need to evolve and if that means finding pleasure with children in watching 4D movies in multiplexes and shopping for overpriced toys, then so be it. It is easier to compare, compete and complain wistfully saying  “while we were growing up, we had none of this and now you have so much” but that is just growth that comes with changing times. 

Here are some things I do and we all can do to raise thankful and grateful children:

  • Charity: The monthly closet cleanse always flushes out old clothes, worn down shoes, accessories and toys that they have outgrown or got bored of. I make it a point to wash the clothes, toys and shoes and pack it neatly. We then either go to our local children’s orphanage and donate these things or we give to our maids who will always be thankful for our hand-me-downs.
  • Cost of Living: For every Rs.1000 spent on frivolous items like toys and accessories, I donate an old item. For every new item in the house, an old item/toy/accessory is replaced.
  • Fixed Budget: While I literally would love to buy her the world, I know I don’t want to raise a spoilt brat for a child. When we go shopping for her, I keep a fixed budget and let her make the decision on whatever she would like to buy as long as it fits in that price range. I refuse to spend even Rs.10 over that budget and make it clear that we will never cross that predetermined budget. 
  • Thank You Notes: My wardrobe is adorned with notes and cards from my daughter and I absolutely cherish each and every one of them. Every fifteen days, we write letters to each other. It could be something as simple as ‘I love you, my baby girl. I am thankful for you in my life.’ or it could be being thankful for finally getting that new gift or something that you had been wanting for a long time. This makes her think, recollect and appreciate the efforts taken by everyone around her and makes her be grateful for the ‘newest’ thing in her life.

For me, these small things have made a visible change in the way my daughter perceives everything around her. After all, when it is your child, you cannot always say NO to them but the secret to raising healthy children lies in how to make them appreciative and grateful even as you’re saying YES.

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