Can I Raise an Appreciative Child?

I’m sitting on the couch with my eight year old son trying to plan out our day. Thinking aloud, I say, “It looks like a good day for the park. What do you say?”

In a monotone response, he says, “Thank you.”

I was looking for his opinion, not for a “Thank you.” We both had a quick laugh when he realized his mistake. But it got me thinking about just how many times I’ve prompted him with “What do you say?” to get him to show thanks for something. His automatic and insincere response is anything but appreciative. “Thank you” has become just words. So now I’m on a mission to raise a more appreciative child. Here is what I’ve figured out so far:

We are all at risk for taking for granted things we have access to all the time. If I go to take a shower one morning and no water comes out, do I appreciate all the times it has worked and think about all the people in countries who have to walk miles for clean water just to drink? No, I get angry and feel deprived.

People appreciate things more if they have to work for them. I relish in the vegetables I grow by hand in my own garden. I throw the grocery store veggies in the cart without a second thought.

Overindulging does not lead to appreciation, only to entitlement. Some people want to give more and more to their children in an effort to be appreciated as parents. Unfortunately, these children just come to expect more and more instead of stopping to appreciate what they have.

Based on these thoughts, here are my ideas on what to do about it:

1. Make sure I’m being a good model for my kids by showing my own appreciation for the things in my life.
2. Not give them every little thing they want, just because they want it.
3. Have my kids work for the extra things they want through chores, good grades, and good behavior.
4. Limit access to “privileges” like TV and computer time. (They won’t appreciate me for this, but they will appreciate those privileges more.)
5. When they are given special gifts or treatment, have them write thank-you notes and do other acts of appreciation versus just saying the words.
6. Have them help me with community service projects like collecting food for the hungry which will expose them to the reality of people who don’t have what they take for granted every day.

All that being said, there are times when I think a lack of appreciation is actually okay or expected. I will let them take for granted that I love them unconditionally and will be there for them when they need it. They likely will never appreciate (until they have kids) all my rules and expectations, my supervision of them, and my effort to instill in them a strong work ethic. I will provide those things anyways without hope of appreciation.

I would love to hear ideas from other parents about their efforts to raise more appreciative children. What do you do that works?

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About Jennifer Sober

I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, a wife and a mother.
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2 Responses to Can I Raise an Appreciative Child?

  1. Jerry Bowersox says:

    As always, very insightful, Laura. It’s a hard job: parenting. Even harder to do so with a view to the future and not just the moment.

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