In a world which encourages to buy whatever you want. Where kids are forever saying “I want that” and “Can I have that?” and “But everyone else has one” it can be overwhelming to raise a grateful teenager.
Society is teaching our children (no matter their age) to feel entitled to have everything they want, simply because “everyone else has it.”
Does having the latest electronic gadget make your children better people? No.
Will throwing a tantrum (and yes, I’ve seen teenagers throw tantrums) until they get what they want make them appreciate it more? No.
But teaching them to be grateful and content with what they already have will teach them how to make the best of every situation and appreciate life more.
When my daughter was growing up she knew she was spoiled but she was also keenly grateful for everything I had given her.
Of course, I overindulged due to my own inability to control my spending and because I felt extremely guilty for getting divorced and tearing the family apart.
But, gratitude was a constant teaching lesson in our family. If she took anything we had for granted she knew I’d take it away in a heartbeat until she learned to fully appreciate what she had.
I never had to that though and it was because gratitude was front and center in our family.
HOW TO RAISE A GRATEFUL TEENAGER IN AN UNGRATEFUL WORLD
But I understand it can really hard to teach gratitude.
It seems so intangible these days.
But showing your child how lucky they are to have many things that many other kids don’t is a good way to start.
A simple lesson of “thank you” will start to form the idea in their minds that appreciation and gratitude go hand-in-hand.
Children who are grateful are more resilient, happier, healthier, more productive, and are able to show empathy to others.
Aren’t these all things you want your teen to experience, both now and as they grow older and older?
With that in mind, here are several strategies that are sure to teach gratitude in a way that your teenager can understand and appreciate.
MAKE VOLUNTEER WORK A HABIT
Spending some time volunteering for a good cause with your teenager will help them to see and understand that there are people less fortunate than themselves.
The more they understand how much they really do have, the more appreciative they’ll be.
Teach your kids the importance of serving others by making a date for it and putting it on the calendar.
Brainstorm different activities with your teenagers for places they’d like to volunteer. Playing games with senior citizens at a retirement home, cleaning up trash in the park, building homes with Habitat for Humanity, and serving dinner at a soup kitchen are all great ways to teach them how to be of service to others.
DISCUSS THE “WHAT IF’S?”
One of the most powerful ways to teach gratitude is to help your teenager recognize the realities of those who have to go without.
At your next family meeting or over dinner, ask your kids the tough “What if…” questions.
“What if you didn’t have a place to sleep?” “What if you were sick or hurt and couldn’t afford to go to the doctor?” “What if there wasn’t enough food to eat every day?”
These powerful questions will get your child thinking about how other people live.
Use our family meeting tools to help spur the conversation and keep track of what you’re teaching your kids.
SHARE THE SILVER LININGS
If not getting to download the latest video game or piece of music from their favorite artists sends them into a tizzy, then it’s time to talk about silver linings.
That means looking for your own silver linings in a challenging situation and sharing them with your kids.
For instance, when you’re stuck in traffic on the drive home due to a rainstorm, say something like, “Well, I guess we don’t have to wash the car today!” Finding the blessing or humor in a situation will teach your child to be grateful and resilient with whatever life throws their way.
There is more than one way to look at things and like Wayne Dyer said, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”
GO WITHOUT FOR A WEEK
When we cater to our teen’s every whim they begin to feel entitled to everything they want.
To help them feel more grateful for what they have, try going without for a few days.
Tell your kids they can’t watch TV for a week. Or turn the air conditioning off and make-do with fans. Make a healthy cut and don’t allow sugary sweets for a week.
Cutting back may not be easy or comfortable, but it’s a great way to teach your kids to appreciate the things they take for granted.
If we expect our kids to learn to be grateful, we need to teach by example. That means thanking everyone who interacts with us in positive ways — from the grocery store clerk to someone who holds the door, to the cashier at the drive-thru.
Your kids may be surprised at how one small act of kindness can lift someone else’s day.
CHANGE YOUR PERSPECTIVE
One of the most powerful lessons in gratitude is when you stop saying “I have to…” and start saying “I get to…”
For example: “I get to drive my kids to school today.” “I get to cook dinner tonight.” “I get to go to my job today.”
This simple shift will help you remember to be grateful for the blessings you have in your life. And by hearing how you get to do all these things, you’ll be giving your child a dose of self-worth and teaching them how to turn their own “have to’s” into “get-to’s”.
MAKE GRATITUDE A DAILY ROUTINE
Grateful people are among the happiest people in the world. Make gratitude an essential part of your family’s day.
Take time at the dinner table to share three things that you’re thankful for, either from that day or in general.
Be specific about your gratitudes, this will teach your kids to do the same. For instance, instead of saying “I’m grateful for my family”, say “I’m grateful that I get to share a meal together with my family and talk about our day.”
Create a gratitude jar and have your kids write down their blessings and place them inside, then share with each other at the end of the week or the month.
Use a gratitude journal to document what you’re grateful for and share it with your teens regularly. Use our form to get started.
Teaching your teen to be grateful in life is one of the most important life lessons you can ever teach.
The more they are grateful for what they have, the less they will want for things they don’t need. They’ll learn to be happy with who they are and what they already have. Instead of feeling frustrated over not getting their way, they’ll feel blessed for all they have that others don’t.
Make gratitude a part of every day and every teaching opportunity you have with your kids. Their lives will feel so much more fulfilled when they experience an attitude of gratitude.