Teenagers can be a nightmare to live with. Boy or girl, teenagers usually mean a lot of drama, a lot of selfish tantrums, and a lot of feelings of entitlement. One way to make living with your teen more tolerable and enjoyable, is to help them develop a grateful outlook on life. While no one can force gratitude, you can help your teen learn to be more grateful, less selfish, and so on. As a parent you do not have to put up with the sense of entitlement your teen will likely display, and you can do things to help them learn gratitude. The following are a few tips on how to do that.
The first thing you have to do as a parent with an ungrateful teen is be clear.
One of the biggest factors contributing to the general lack of gratitude shown by teens these days is that they feel they “deserve” or are “entitled to” what they have or are given. As a parent it is your job to clarify the difference between rights and privileges. For example, you as a parent need to help your teen understand that while they have the right to be clothed, it is a privilege to have the name brand clothes, and sheer volume of clothes they have. This is just one simple example, there are many more. For example, it is their right to attend school, but it is a privilege to get to drive instead of ride the bus. One of the best ways to clarify the difference for your teen is to help them understand that they do not earn rights, but they need to earn privileges. Start making them earn it, and soon they will recognize the difference. It is when they receive too much for too little that they feel entitled.
The second thing you need to do is subtly help your teen more readily recognize their blessings.
If you want your teen to be more grateful you need to show them that they have a lot to be grateful for. If you sit them down and lecture them on how much they have to be grateful for, you can bet their mind will be on the things they don’t have, or on their friends that have more, not on their blessings. However, if you take opportunity to discuss casually things like hurricane victims, or the homeless, your teen may start to see what they have. For example, at dinner you can casually start a conversation about the news story that indicated the number of homeless people found frozen to death after the first winter storm of the year. These dinner conversations will have a way of making your child more appreciative of your home than any sit down lecture where you tell them they need to be grateful. Hearing about and seeing people who do not have many privileges will help to make the distinction between their rights and privileges more obvious.
Third, you have to be the shining example of a grateful person.
If you want your teen to be someone who shows gratitude, be the role model. Show gratitude, recognize when it is shown to you, and be appreciative of opportunities for gratitude. It is important as we are a model of gratitude that we recognize and show gratitude to our teens, even if it is for something super small, like clearing their dishes after dinner. Show your teen, through example, to be grateful for the large and small gestures. It will rub off.
Lastly, do not expect too much too quickly.
Showing gratitude, and learning to be a grateful person is a process, and you need to recognize the steps your teen makes toward it, even if they are small, and do not get frustrated when they take a step back. Patience is key. Your teen will never learn if you blow your top when they mess up. While gratitude is a state of mind, and it takes a conscious choice to consider others and be more grateful, it is not something that you can change overnight in a selfish teen. So, be encouraging, and give them opportunities to be grateful, and eventually it will kick in.