How to raise a grateful child?

A source of frustration around our house lately . . . nothing's ever good enough, soon enough, or awesome enough for our shortest resident. I'm hoping it's just a phase, but the phase is wearing out its welcome. From what I've read, my daughter's behavior is normal for her age. Kids are biologically programmed to think mostly about themselves until around the age of eight or so, when they start developing the ability to empathize with others. I'm looking forward to the day when my daughter's cognitive development reaches this stage. The whining and the complaining and the eye-rolling - egads. Also, she has added a syllable to the word "Daddy." When he doesn't give her what she wants, she yells, "Dad-eeeeee-uh!"

This is not to say she is not a good kid. She's a great kid - smart, outgoing, affectionate, and funny. However, we seem to be falling into a trap common in families with just one child. Despite our best intentions and efforts, she's a bit spoiled. Her dad and I have been trying to figure out the best way to instill a sense of gratitude in our daughter. We try to lead by example, of course. We also use the "children are starving in Africa" line on her regularly. I can't say that she's losing a lot of sleep over those African kids, though. She informed me that she is willing to send them some of her food. I told her that she is missing the point - I just want her to eat what's on her plate (even if it is green) and be glad she's got a plate full of food. Alas, the lass is falling a bit short in the gratitude department.

Here are a couple of examples of recent issues:

1. We purchased three six-day "park hopper" passes for Disney World (to the tune of nearly $1,000). The passes (plastic cards) arrived in the mail last week. Each card has a different Disney character on it - Pluto, Goofy, and Mickey. I am not sure how much it matters when we get to the parks, but the card that is technically designated for my daughter (since the others are adult passes) is the one bearing Goofy's likeness. She immediately threw a fit. "I want the Mickey one!" I, of course, lobbed back a "we don't have to go at all, you know!" and so on it went.

2. The weather was pretty iffy on Sunday afternoon, so I told the kid I'd take her to the jumpity-jump place after church. I even invited one of her friends along. I told her I would take the girls over there at 2:00. At noon, the whining began. "Why can't we go noooooow?" I should also add that I had taken her to a children's festival the day before. When we got to the jumpity-jump place, her friend got lucky with the games and somehow turned a handful of tokens into over a thousand tickets. So, needless to say, she was able to cash them in for a much bigger prize than what my daughter was able to get. Instead of congratulating her friend, my little princess scowled and stomped around and basically redefined the term "sour grapes."

I don't know. I'm at a loss. I mean, short of dropping her off at a soup kitchen to work a shift every weekend or selling all of her shit on Craigslist, how does one make sure they are raising a kid who understands the importance of gratitude? Am I over-thinking this?

Two sweaty girls at the jumpity-jump place.

At the kids' festival on Saturday


radioactivegan said…
I'm sorry to hear about your daughter's foray into entitlement. I'm sure that it's just a phase (because that does sound like a little kid thing to do). I know a few adults who still have that outlook, so if you want me to have a long talk with her about how hard it is to be nice to those people, I'd be happy to. It's a talk I wish I could have with them ..
Sam said…
Every night at dinner we go around and everyone says one thing they're grateful for that happened that day. The 3 year-old usually says something like "ice cream" or "Dora", but it's a sweet tradition and a way to introduce the idea of being grateful. My husband and I get to model it and the kids get to figure it out.

That said, as an elementary school teacher I have to say, yes, it's perfectly typical for young children to appear ungrateful. They live in the moment, so the fact that you did a million FUN AND EXCITING things with them an hour ago makes no difference NOW. Kids are annoying that way! :-)
Zenseeker said…
We have the same battles at our house. Somewhere between now and Florida, MANY toys will be disappearing. And I HAVE thought about making him volunteer at a soup kitchen...funny thing that they want the volunteers to be 18 or so. Nick's new name IS DADDYYYAAHHHH. You're not alone, my friend.

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