I have an allergic reaction to entitlement – it really is the worst of our modern culture’s failings.
What is entitlement?
The belief that one has a right to receive better treatment or privileges or rewards.
From children who believe they’re more special than the next guy, to parents who believe that their child is more deserving than someone else’s child… entitlement and its consequences are causing all kinds of havoc in teaching and parenting these days.
But, I don’t really want to talk about entitlement, I want to talk about it’s polar opposite: Gratitude.
Gratitude is the most powerful weapon we can use to fight entitlement, and here’s the best part: it’s totally teachable!
It’s just about impossible to feel entitled and grateful at the same time, and with daily practice we can stamp out that entitled attitude altogether.
Spurred on by a nasty little attitude of entitlement I’ve discovered in my own home lately, I’ve put together this short list to help my children practice more gratitude. I hope it helps you too.
- Notice what you have. I told my children this morning: You have a warm house, a cosy bed, a full tummy, a choice of clothes to wear, toys for days, family who love you. ‘More’ doesn’t make you happier – it just fills a gap for a little while, and then you need more again. I’m going to make a point of having my kids tell me at least 10 things they’re grateful for whenever they complain about how terrible their lives are because they don’t have the one thing that I’m not giving them.
- Practice putting others first. These demanding little humans are experts at getting what they want out of their parents. Their world is all about getting what they want and what they need, so it’s up to us to teach them that actually, everything is not all about you! I do encourage my children to put others first, but it’s not enough. I’m going to try something new: asking my kids to step back from a situation and tell my why it will make them feel good to let someone else go first, or choose the biggest slice, or decide which game. I’m going to have them intentionally think about and feel all the good things that putting someone else first can bring you, like seeing the smile on their face, or knowing that you made their day, or making them feel noticed and liked.
- Help someone. Lately when I ask for my children’s help, they often say they’re too busy, or say they will but don’t come over. It takes some very present parenting to make myself follow up and think about the lesson I’m teaching them, rather than just getting the task out the way myself. So, from today, helping me is going to become an important part of their day. Plus, we’re going to spend some time looking around our community for opportunities to help others too.
- Create a daily practice. I’ve read a couple of ideas on this – a gratitude jar, a gratitude tree, a journal, a bulletin board. The basic idea is that you make a time each day to talk about what you’re grateful for, write or draw about it, and collect what you’ve written in some way. We always talk about the best and worst part of our day at the dinner table, but I’m going to take it a step further and let the kids choose some way to collect our thoughts of gratitude to make it more concrete. I’m interested to see how they react after a week or two when they have a bit of a collection to really get a sense of how much they have to be grateful for.
Wish me luck – and if you’re also going to make gratitude a priority in your home, let me know how you get on!