Monday, September 15, 2014

Raising Appreciative Kids

As a mother, I believe it is my responsibility to give my children everything they need; I give them food, clothes, school supplies and MUCH more... I perceive them as happy and content children whose needs and wants are always met and I, in turn, feel satisfied for doing a "good" job... but am I REALLY doing a good job?  I know my children are content...but are they APPRECIATIVE? Do they really understand what things are worth?  Do they grasp how LUCKY they really are to have what they have?....furthermore.. am I giving them TOO much?
We live in such a wasteful society, where we take everything for granted and nothing holds true value... iPhone 6 coming out?  Yes!  $749?  Who cares!  I still have a perfectly good 5s but I GOTTA have the new cooler looking model... When did that train of thought become our norm?
I was at the Chick-fil-A drive-thru the other day and my order had two drinks, the guy put the two cups in a carton cup holder and before I even touched it I gently told him I didn't need it since my car has a cup holder; he quickly said "ok" and proceded to trash a perfectly good cup holder without hesitation.  A similar thing happened to me at a Greek food place when I asked for a water cup and when the girl grabbed two by mistake, she simply tossed the other one in the trash.  Now, some people might argue that "procedure policies" require this sort of behavior, but I find it very sad to think that it's OK to just waste things for no reason.... I could come up with a ton of similar stories that convey the exact same message...but for practical purposes I won't do that....
So the problem lies with the fact that this unappreciative society is where our children are growing up; to them it's normal to throw perfectly good things in the trash, it's acceptable to want newer things just "because" and they have a constant expectation of having more; it's like they are genetically programmed to never be fully satisfied and to feel like there's always something missing.  Our children are growing up believing that they are entitled to millions of toys, never-ending entertainment and endless "things" that really never teach them anything and never fill the emotional voids that are part of life; we aren't teaching our kids to be appreciative because we live a constant state of "excess", we aren't promoting positive emotions and we certainly aren't nurturing caring feelings.
So how can we raise appreciative kids?  What are some of the basic concepts that can help our children become rich in feelings and emotions rather than rich in needless possessions? Can we do this collectively as a society?  Can we change the negative spiral effect that we are part of?
I have compiled a list of things that can contribute in changing these negative patterns of self-absorption and materialism into positive appreciation and a desire to focus on intangible things.
Here are some of my observations:

  • Encourage basic manners: teaching your kids to say "please" and "thank you" goes a long way.  When you teach basic manners, you are building a foundation of appreciation and you are enabling your child to value other people's emotions by showing respect at all times. 
  • Teach them the concept of money: kids NEED to know how much things cost and consequently they should understand the process involved in making money. We can't raise kids who are oblivious about the fact that money does not come out of a black hole and that parents need to work hard in order to obtain the money that goes towards purchasing everything they have.  Allowances and money management lessons are great approaches. 
  • Expose them to the needs of the world: making a child aware of the needs in the rest of the world allows him to understand his place in society and it helps in making him more considerate of others and be more appreciative of what he has. We were at church the other day and the priest brought up and astounding fact: "In places like Haiti, $100 can feed a family of 4 for a WHOLE YEAR". Can you think about the last time you spent $100 on a special birthday dinner?  I can!  I'm sure more than one person will answer yes to this question.
  • Give them responsibility: a child is more likely to understand the value of hard work when he has to perform some sort of duty, whether it's a small chore at home or some other type of "work; it is highly advisable to get children engaged in some sort of contributing routine.  When you give a task to a child, you change the focus from what they can GET to what they can GIVE and that makes for a very positive change. 
  • Do not engage in consumerism: Consumerism is one of the worst ailments of our society; it encourages the acquisition of goods and services in greater amounts that are needed. When parents live a life of over-consumption, a child is more likely to model such behavior and interpret it as acceptable; this then become a cycle that is hard to break so it's best to never start it.  Stick to NEEDS vs. WANTS!
  • Do not give into the "gimmes": when we give children more than they need, we are creating an expectation of "get-get-get" and we are weakening their character by placing excessive value on things rather than on developing strong relationships with the people around them. So as hard as it may be, parents need to stop encouraging the notion of effortless rewards and vane possessions. 
  • Encourage children to become "givers": you may be surprised how much children enjoy giving and parents should always encourage children to find pleasure in sharing and helping others.  A toy drive around the holidays or a canned food donation will go a long way in teaching this lesson.  When we promote a "giving" attitude, we are more likely to raise children that appreciate what they get, no matter how little it may be.  
These are only a few of the things that will help parents in raising more appreciative kids.  We must always remember that the change starts with us parents and that we are raising tomorrow's leaders.  Let's keep making the world a better place by teaching our kids the value of people, emotions and feelings and by helping them understand their place in society.  We need to appreciate our world in order for the world to appreciate us!

Happy blogging!