lessons on appreciation and thinking of others

Roi - posted on 11/11/2014 ( 6 moms have responded )

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Hi there guys,
Im in need of help in teaching my daughter a lesson in appreciating what she has and to think of others.
As a mother I have always wanted the best for my children and wanted them to have nice things. After yet another disagreement about cleaning her room I explained to her how lucky she was to have what she owned as many others have way less. My daughter did not show compassion her response was to just chuck the toys out as she wasn't cleaning her room and she would be fine with it as eventually dad and I would buy her new ones!!
Suffice to say I was gutted by the statement. We are a military family, our kids use their manners, are respecful to elders and work hard for a lot of what they own. I'm at a lost at how to tackle this problem. I want her to volunteer but she's too young but I need her to understand how lucky she is, to cherish what she has and above all else sympathize for those who do not.
This was the most shocking statement out of three last night but they are too long to write I thought I would give you guys the jist of the story. Anyways please let us if you have any ideas I would love to hear them

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Chet - posted on 11/11/2014

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You didn't give your daughter's age, but to a large extent, appreciation comes with maturity and experience. Gratitude isn't a thing you can pour into your daughter's mind and heart. It's something that a child discovers as they grow and learn, and it's a very slow process.

Kids start out 100% self centred as babies, and it takes a long time for even the kindest, most loving child to come out of that. You often hear adults say things like they "I didn't appreciate my parents until I had children of my own" or "I didn't appreciate what really mattered in life until..." after some huge life event.

Also, in the context of your daughter needing to clean her room is a bad time to have a discussion about appreciation and gratitude. Even a child who does appreciate what they have (in an age appropriate way) is likely to make a flip comment about not wanting their toys when they're tired and cranky and feel nagged about cleaning up their room.

There are a lot of parenting books around about developing empathy and gratitude in children. I can't recommend any specific ones, but I would look around. There are definitely some good ones.

One good thing to do is to get your daughter into the habit of talking and thinking about how other people feel. The ability to put yourself in someone else's shoes is a key element of appreciation.

Your daughter might be too young to volunteer, but she's not too young to give or to see you giving - even in the smallest way. Like finding new homes for things you aren't using instead of storing them in the basement where they get no use. Bringing an extra pair of mittens on the field trip in case somebody forgot theirs. If our kids have to take money to school for something (small amounts like $1 or $2) I often give them an extra dollar or two to take in case somebody forgot theirs. I think this kind of thing has helped them form a habit of noticing when others don't have something, or how others feel. And when people are angry or make mistake I encourage our kids to think sympathetically about that person rather than critically. Again, put yourself in someone else's shoes. Transgressions aren't okay. but you can still try to understand why they happen.

Reading some historical fiction together may help too. Books about children who lived through the great depression, or who escaped from slavery for example. There are lots of great books that deal with the struggles faced by less fortunate children in an age-appropriate way.

Even reading the Laura Ingals Wilder books together may help her to appreciate the comforts and freedoms modern children enjoy. And what's good about those books is that Laura often struggles with needing to be good and appreciative. Her character is very real. Our girls were quite young when we read the first couple books together. I think Mary and Laura are only 4 and 6 in the first book.

It's also good too to model the behaviour you want to see in your children. Tell you daughter when you appreciate something and why - even small things.

K Renee - posted on 11/11/2014

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My daughter is almost 20 and I applied going to shelters and different retreats for the homeless to connect her to the world of homelessness. It definitely worked very well. She is very grateful for everything we have and always appreciative of everything that we are blessed with.

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Roi - posted on 11/11/2014

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Chet mc,
Thank you so much for your reply. Your input was the alterior perspective I was looking for. I will definitely look into the laura wilder books. My daughter is 5, apologies I had forgotten to mention that. I do get where your coming from about talking to her whilst she cleaning her room thinking on it I understand how quickly thw frustration sets on her part.
I understand children start out as selfish and its up to parents and role models to shape their mindset. I want to endeavor in instilling this mindset into her I personally believe your never too young to learn and your suggestion on having chats about putting yourself in others shoes is extremely helpful.
What a wonderful read
Thank you

Roi - posted on 11/11/2014

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Hi there guest,
I would like to clarify my post.
We don't automatically buy her new toys. We have had in place the rule of toys that are laying around do get taken to the salvo's. If she misbehaves a toy gets placed in a box, she earns it back by getting 3 stickers by doing extra chores.
Heres where it gets complicated. My daughter is from a previous relationship. We've had several occasions where toys have been donated however, over time she does get toys from all family members. My daughter is lucky in the sense that she belongs to four different families she has two moms and two dads. Just in my family I have 38 aunties and uncles and over 100 first cousins! . Believe me we've asked our families not to go crazy on presents. My partner and I buy her toys only on bdays and xmas

Guest - posted on 11/11/2014

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I posted before I read Chet's response....I love her advice. I intend to incorporate some of her ideas into my parenting, even though we are not currently struggling with this, it is still a good mindset to keep.

Guest - posted on 11/11/2014

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Why on Earth would you buy her new ones?? I certainly wouldn't.
When my son was about 3 years old, he refused to clean his room, so I set a timer and said that anything not in it's place when the bell rang would be donated to Goodwill. When the bell rang, I picked up everything and we took it to Goodwill. I did NOT replace the toys. He is 10 now, and we buy him toys for Christmas, Easter, and birthdays, and VERY occasionally as a reward for some achievement. Any other toys, he has to buy himself. Now he takes care of his things because he knows how difficult it is to get new ones.

I wouldn't consider that a lesson in thinking of others though, and how you teach that lesson would depend on what you want her to think about them. Do you want her to know that people who are poor are people just like her and should be treated with respect? Or do you want her to understand that other people have feelings just like her and that her ungrateful attitude hurts their feelings, and her grateful attitude makes them happy? Once you figure that out, you can modify her volunteer schedule to teach the lessons you want her to learn. Or if she really loves where she is volunteering now, talk to her supervisors in the organizations about how they can modify her duties to help you teach her what you need her to learn. That way she doesn't have to give up something she loves doing, and the organization doesn't lose a volunteer, but she still learns a new lesson.

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