"Fine" (roll of the eyes)
"Dad, you've got to take me to soccer."
"Mom, there's nothing good to eat in this house!"
"I have that already!"
"Why should I get the phone, it's not for me anyway?"
We live in a world where our children feel that they are stars, even if it's only on YouTube. Thirty percent of college students polled feel that they deserve at least a B just for showing up to class. Our children feel entitled and with this attitude, they grow arrogant.
Did you ever drive a carpool and realize that the kids just slammed the door shut without even a "thank you?"
Did you ever hold a door open in school and watch children saunter through without a backwards glance?
Did you ever sit in a restaurant or airplane and watch children being served? What about a ‘thank you' or appreciative words given then?
Don't hold your breath.
One mother said to me, "Forget about gratitude, I'm just grateful if my kids don't complain."
Is a ‘thank you' so crucial to our children's character or is it just another polite display of good manners?
We wake up each morning and the first words out of our lips is a prayer; the prayer of Modeh Ani. We thank God for the gift of a new day.
Children who grow up lacking gratitude and appreciation become selfish and arrogant.
But Modeh Ani does not only mean ‘thank you,' it also means ‘I admit.' You see, if I thank you for something, then I must admit that I owe you. And no one likes to think that they owe anyone anything. It's uncomfortable and humbling to be beholden. It's much easier to just assume that it's all coming to me. And so, without expressing gratitude, we grow arrogant.
Judaism teaches us that we must begin each day with an appreciation for our time here, for the incredible gift of life. Saying ‘thank you' is much more than polite manners, it is character building. My gratitude to God brings within me a sense of humility as I am humbled by the magnitude of my life and the opportunity to accomplish goodness throughout my day.
Children who grow up lacking gratitude and appreciation become selfish and arrogant. They walk around with ‘attitude.' Nothing is ever good enough. ‘Thank you' is not part of their vocabulary. Instead, they become accustomed to their parent's filling their every need. They see no reason to express their thankfulness. Princess parties and "I Am Special" t-shirts reinforce their conceit. Our children's eyes have never been opened to the fact that this is really not all coming to them; entitlement is not a way of life. It is time for the Me Generation to become the We Generation.
Gratitude Begins At Home
My Shabbos table is set. The silver candlesticks shine as the candle's lights cast a warm glow in the room. Our children's voices fill the night with songs and lively discussions; their plates are filled with favorite foods. As the Shabbos meal comes to an end, my husband gives me a most precious gift. He stands up and says in front of my children and guests, "Thank you so much for our magnificent Shabbos." I smile and watch as my children take it all in. Week after week, year after year, my husband's appreciation is so cherished. Yes, Mommy will make Shabbos for us each week, but that does not mean that we may take her efforts for granted.
Our children need to learn to not take life's blessings for granted.
I, too, try to follow this path of appreciation. When we are fortunate enough to take a family vacation or even buy our holiday clothing, I will make a point of taking a moment and thanking my husband for all that he does for us; as does each child. We are not entitled. Our children must learn never to take life's blessings for granted. And what better way to teach them appreciation than by being examples and role models ourselves? A seed has been planted. We are instilling within our children the education of appreciation. When husbands and wives live together with words of gratitude, the foundation of our home is based on thankfulness and respect. It's not 'All About Me.'
Begin With "Thank You"
So the next time you ask, "Would you like to go for sneakers after school?", or "Would you like some macaroni, sweetie?" don't accept, "Fine" or "Whatever" as an answer. Instead of "You need to take me to soccer, Daddy" or "Mom, you need to drive me to school," take a moment and implant within your children an attitude of gratitude.
"Thank you, Mom"; "Thank you, Dad"; "Please, Daddy', "Please, Mommy" is the first step towards teaching our children appreciation.
A simple "thank you" can bring our children to recognize the daily gifts and blessings that they have taken so often for granted.