I read something once, on how to raise grateful kids. A lot of that kind of advice is lofty, vague and overwhelming, leaving me thinking I ought to be doing 1,000 hours of charity work with my kids every month, but this one was so beautifully simple:
Run out of things.
Does this sound familiar: “Mom, there’s nothing to eat!” (whiny, tortured voice) As a responsible parent who is aware it’s important for kids to ingest food, you know this is absolutely not true. But, do you, like me, feel a twinge of guilt because you haven’t been to the grocery store in over a week and it is, in deed, slim pickins in the pantry?
Instead of feeling guilty and lazy, I’ve realized this is character building. When you are out of your kids’ favorite snack for 10 days, then you finally buy it, they are sooo excited! They are grateful, and you feel appreciated. It’s a win all around.
This can work with things other than food. One time, the overhead light in our garage went out. After about a month, Jason fixed it. Then, our youngest went into the garage, flipped the switch and said delightedly, “Hey, the light works!” Big grin on his face. I tell you, it’s no small feat to get a kid these days to appreciate working electricity.
So, the next time you run out of the food your kids think they can’t live without or they complain you haven’t fixed this or done that yet, instead of feeling guilty, feel proud. This is a “teachable moment” as they say. And, it takes way less energy than running to the store every few days and repeatedly delivering the lecture about “being grateful for what you have, because some kids don’t have food/clothes/warm houses.” (Yes, I have given this speech; no, I don’t think it’s particularly effective, except for my own venting.)
Most of the kids we know have plenty. They don’t know what it is to have food insecurity or to not know where they will sleep that night. They don’t know what it’s like not to have caregivers upon whom they can absolutely rely. And yes, it’s useful to expose your children to these things through a variety of channels, but on a simpler, everyday level, you can teach them to go without certain luxuries from time to time and spare both of you the lecture.