10 Ways to Teach Your Teen Gratitude: The First 5 Ways
*This article was posted on Dr. Robyn’s Powerful Parenting Blog as a service to Powerful Words Family Schools. While this article is directed towards parents, as teachers and coaches, in the spirit of gratitude month, we can all learn something from it. Who doesn’t want to learn how to better understand and work with teens?
Is that what I deserve after helping you? What am I going to do with you?!”
You might hear this cry of frustration among parents of teens as they struggle with their child’s mood swings and opposition to authority. Caught between the desire to see their teens individuate and the longing for a time, only a few short years ago, when their teens used to need them, want them around, and perhaps even “worship” them a little, Mom and Dad might be dealing with their own growing pains.
“You’re ruining my life! Just leave me alone!”
On the other hand, these might just be the lines of their teens, who, with raging hormones and a natural desire to spend time with friends (and less time with you), are realizing that they’re too old to play yet are too young to decide how they’re going to run their life.
Adolescence is certainly a crazy time for both parents and teenagers. But it doesn’t have to be unpleasant. As adults, parents can think of ways to help their teens as they go through this important journey in their lives. It takes a lot of patience, determination, creativity, reflection…and yes, stress-management.
One way to make living with your teen more tolerable and enjoyable, is to help them develop a grateful outlook on life. As parents, we can’t demand that our teenagers be grateful of us or anyone else. However, we can’t simply accept an ungrateful attitude and a sense of entitlement from them either.
So what are we to do?
Here are the first 5 tips to help your teens keep the importance of gratitude in the forefront:
(1) Clarify the difference between rights and privileges. In today’s world of modern conveniences, we take many things for granted. We don’t realize that conveniences are privileges rather than our rights. For example, it’s the right of our children to be clothed, but it’s a privilege for them to wear designer jeans. It’s the right of our children to be educated, but it’s a privilege for them to have access to after-school programs and specialty classes. Our children don’t need to earn their rights but they do need to earn their privileges. Help your teens discover the blessings they have been given. This doesn’t mean lecturing– but a discussion of news stories that show people’s rights being violated or dinner conversation about stories teens who do not have many privileges will help to make this distinction more obvious.
(2) Be a model of gratitude. That means show it, recognize it, and appreciate it when you see it. When your teen demonstrates kind, thoughtful behavior, be sure to show gratitude. Don’t let sleeping dogs lie. Nothing feels better than being appreciated for the little things such as putting the plates in the sink without being asked or making the bed. Resist the temptation to say; “FINALLY, you did it– why don’t you do this all the time!” It will backfire. In addition, show gratitude for others, whether it’s a neighbor who brings in your mail or the store clerk that helps you with your groceries, when they help you or do something to make your life a little more convenient or worthwhile. Our own gratitude shows our teens that it’s important to be grateful even for both small and grand gestures.
(3) Keep a positive attitude and stop whining. It may sounds corny, but a grateful, positive outlook tends to make life, well, more positive. Every morning, find something for which to be grateful; the sun shining, the garden getting the rain it needed, the fact that your neighbor remembered to put his robe on before getting his paper. Notice something positive about your teen. Compliment him but don’t overpraise. This could be as simple as telling him how good he looks in his blue shirt or as significant as telling him how much you appreciate the hug he gives you ever morning.
(4) Acknowledge failure and frustration—both yours and your child’s. Owning one’s weakness is the first step to learning and improving. Adding humor to the situation when possible/appropriate will help lighten things too. Say- “Oops, I guess I messed up, sorry about that,” “I must have left my brain on my pillow this morning—I’ll go get it,” or “Everyone makes mistakes—we can be thankful that we have the ability to fix them.” Then, end the conversation with hope: “Thank goodness, there’s still tomorrow. We’ll do better next time.”
(5) Find the Good in the situation. Many situations which appear “bad,” often can result in something good. It may be tough, but try to be a “good-finder” and show your children how to do the same. For example, The Seemingly Bad: Your teen has to stay home on a Friday night and baby-sit her younger sibling. The Good? They find this movie on TV that was so funny that they had a blast watching it together. The Benefit? This will teach them to look for the good and not be so quick to complain.
Gratitude is a state of mind. It takes a conscious mindset and a willingness to stop and take notice of everything that makes life better, more convenient, and more fulfilling. Surround your teen with gratitude; grateful people, things to be grateful for, and models of gratitude and he’ll surely get the picture. Teens can seem like they’re not paying attention but in reality, they carry our voices and our examples everywhere they go. So go ahead. They’re watching and listening. And they want to talk to you.
Stay tuned for 10 Ways to Teach Your Teen Gratitude; Volume 2: The Next 5 Ways
Have a Powerful Week!
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