Q: I’m concerned about my little girl’s selfish attitude. How do I discourage this behaviour and help her develop a grateful heart?
A: Yours is a question to which almost every parent can relate. The answer depends upon your daughter’s age. Smaller children may be too young to understand ideas like unselfishness and gratitude. They’re still in the process of grasping what it means to be an individual “self” distinguishable from the rest of the world around them. If your daughter is only five or six years old, there’s probably no reason to be overly concerned about her behaviour.
It’s a different matter where older children are concerned. This is when many parents begin to realize the impact of our materialistic, consumer-driven culture. Advertisers and toy manufacturers aren’t in the business of helping mums and dads teach concepts like contentment and thankfulness. From their perspective, children are a lucrative “market” sector, and they design their publicity campaigns accordingly. As a result, children are conditioned to believe that they’re entitled to have everything they want — right now!
The best way we as parents can counter this is by modelling a grateful and selfless attitude ourselves. As we go through our daily routines, we should remember to express gratitude on a regular basis — even for simple things. Convey thankfulness to friends, family and co-workers, and not just when they do something special for you. Let people know how much you appreciate them just for who they are.
Another way to encourage gratitude is by serving others who are less fortunate. Volunteer to serve meals at a local rescue mission. Visit shut-ins at a nursing home, or sponsor a poor child in a third-world country. This will increase your family’s awareness of their blessings while getting in touch with the needs of people around the world.
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