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The Gift Of Gratitude: How To Not Foster Entitlement

The holiday season is officially upon us, and my guess is you didn’t have to pry a gift list from your children’s hands. I doubt they’ve left you guessing. As you’re checking that list, don’t forget to add a little something extra this year. No, I don’t mean an extra toy or gift card… I’m talking gratitude. In fact, go ahead and give it them early!

It’s so easy to allow our children to be entitled, especially around the holidays. They ask they get– it’s the nature of the beast! Is it possible to teach gratitude and avoid entitlement without canceling the celebration? I’m glad to say there is.

Here are 8 ways to share the gift of gratitude this holiday season, instead of encouraging entitlement!

Share The Load

Yes, I’m talking about chores! I don’t know about you, but there are definitely chores that I pretended to be bad at in order to get out of them. I have a sneaky feeling I’m not alone in this. Think about last time you gave your kid a chore. Was it hard to watch? Did you want to take the broom from them and just do it yourself? Did you actually just take the broom from them and do it yourself? Well, there’s the problem. The more regular getting out of chores becomes, the less they appreciate the things that you do for them, and the less they appreciate the benefits of a little bit of work. If they’ve never done a chore in their life, they’ve had no opportunity to feel gratefulness. They can’t know the effort you put into keeping the house together, and raising a family, on top of everything else you do… unless they get their hands a little dirty, too.

Reconsider The Meaning Of Allowance

Speaking of chores… do your kids get an allowance? There’s nothing wrong with an allowance; it’s actually a great teaching tool for money management, math, and responsibility. My guess is, however, your children get an allowance for pulling their weight around the house. This seems innocent enough, but it’s really just teaching them that the only reason to work, sacrifice time, or help around the house is because there will be a reward at the end of it.

A great way to disconnect chores and allowance is to explain to your kids that they are citizens of the household. We’ve talked about teaching kids about citizenship and this is a perfect teachable moment! As citizens, we all have responsibilities and privileges. Let your children understand that all of the comforts that they enjoy are provided to them as a citizen of the household. These privileges are their warm beds, toys and games, delicious meals, and new clothes. With these privileges, however, come responsibilities, such as making the warm beds, taking care of and tidying our toys and games, washing the dishes after a delicious meal, and helping to wash or fold laundry. Since privileges are results of upholding responsibilities, they do not deserve an allowance, just as adults don’t get paid to do these things.

Instead, introduce allowance jobs. These jobs can be the extra chores that are helpful around the house, like washing the cars, mowing the lawn, deep cleaning, and taking out the trash. Put these jobs in rotation so nobody gets stuck doing the same thing every time. Here’s the kicker: make them required. Don’t let your kids think they can get away with quitting their “jobs” when they feel like they have enough money, but do reward them for pitching in a little harder.

This allows children to understand responsibility and to have a bit of an idea how hard you work, as parents. It also allows them to feel as though they are treated fairly and that some hard work does come with reward.

Let Them Buy Some Things For Themselves

Bring your kids shopping, not only because it’s important for them to see where their things come from and that they take time and money to buy, but also because it provides an opportunity for them to buy some things on their own. If there is something they truly want but don’t need, it’s a great opportunity for them to spend their earned money. I can assure you they’ll learn gratitude when they have to spend their own money– gratitude for the fact that you buy them things all the time, and a general sense of thankfulness and respect for their own belongings.

Make Gratitude An Everyday Word

Appreciation is more about the gifts under the tree. We all fall victim to losing gratitude in daily life. Be a better model for your children and show gratitude for the small things. If your partner hands you a cup of tea, give them genuine words of gratitude. If your children do something kind or helpful, without being asked, make sure they know that you are thankful for their actions. Talk more about what you are grateful for in life. Reinforce this at home. Talk about your day at dinner—what good things happened? It doesn’t have to be a Brady Bunch conversation, but it can be a good time to talk about gratitude.

Walk The Talk

It’s easy to tell your kids to be grateful for the food on their plate because there are children on the other side of the world who are starving. Problem is, there are children in your own town or city that are starving, too. You don’t need to scare or scar your children, but they should be aware that there are kids, just like them, who don’t have the opportunities or things that they have.

Bring service learning into the home. You could regularly volunteer at a soup kitchen, children’s home, or other community centers. You can talk about how their classmates are all from different walks of life, and we never know where someone else is coming from. Whatever you do, however, don’t just talk about it.

Don’t just tell your children that other kids are in need. Instead, make a Christmas tradition of donating a box of gently used toys to a local charity. Let your kids know that, because they have the opportunity to get new things, they should pay it forward to other children. This teaches gratitude for the things we do have, and generosity for those who don’t have the same.

Write It Down

Have your kids write thank you notes after receiving gifts or being a guest in someone’s home. This may seem outdated, but gratitude never goes out of style. Try to make sure this isn’t just a chore—there is nothing grateful about empty words. Challenge your children to really think about what they received, be it a new toy or a special experience, and make sure they think and write about why they are thankful for the kind act or experience.

Don’t See “No” As A Swear Word

Sometimes kids ask for something that you can’t afford, they don’t actually deserve, or they don’t need. Is “No, not today,” that bad of an answer? I can tell you one thing: the less you say “no,” the harder it gets to say it in the future!

It’s hard to be thankful for something that you’re so used to getting and having. After a while, it just becomes another thing that’s always there. When’s the last time you thought, “I’m so thankful for this breakfast”? Probably not in a while, because you do it every day. It’s habitual. It’s always there. The same goes for kids who get whatever they want, whenever they want.

Don’t Make The Holidays Just About The Gifts

If you don’t already have any holiday traditions, make some! My family always made batches of Christmas cookies and candy and gave them as gifts or brought them to holiday parties. On Christmas morning, we had brunch and everyone helped out. We were excited to get up in the morning and help make the muffins. Christmas morning wasn’t just about the gifts, it was about togetherness and celebration. We knew there was a full day ahead of gathering together and celebrating as a family. And, you know what? That was always the best part. The gifts were just a bonus to be grateful for.

Photo by Kaboompics // Karolina from Pexels

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