We’ve all heard our own grandparents and parents bemoan the sorry state of manners and greedy attitudes in the youth of today. It seems to be a universal belief that younger generations have not learned to be as grateful and thankful as kids used to be.
Whether or not this is true in your family, we grandparents want to be beacons of light to our grandchildren. We want them to be good, kind people when they grow up and we want to instill in them the character traits that will lead to success.
If children today don’t seem to know basic manners and want more in the way of material goods than seems healthy, we can nudge them in the right direction. The situation might be tricky if the parents aren’t on the same page as you are, but in general, when the grandkids are with you, you have the right to teach and expect certain behaviors.
Here are some thoughts to process on ways you can be a positive influence on your grandchildren as they spend time with you during their formative years. You can teach your grandkids to have grateful hearts
Don’t Be Part of the Problem
Sometimes grandparents love their grandchildren so much they just can’t limit their gift-giving. This is especially true of a first grandchild. But, it’s so important to put on the brakes when it comes to being the “fount of gifts” for children. If their first question when seeing you is “What did you bring me?” that might be a clue that you’re overdoing it.
Listen to the parents and follow their guidelines when it comes to birthday, holiday and other gift-giving times. Children are quite happy to enjoy spending time with you, doing crafts, cooking, going on outdoor adventures and the like. And these gifts are much more meaningful than mere toys and games.
Expect Basic Manners
When you’re together with your grandchildren you have every right to expect basic manners. And especially when you’re caring for them, you can reinforce please and thank you, waiting to speak without interrupting, basic table manners and the like.
There may be teachable moments in which to give reminders, tell stories of when their parents had to learn the same lessons and the reasons for being kind, thankful and polite. All of us had to learn to be generous to others and overcome natural selfish tendencies. Your grandchildren will be thankful for your input when they’re older.
Set a Good Example
Our behavior when in the presence of our grandchildren speaks volumes—much more than our words. Do you speak to them politely and with respect? Do you show your contentment with the things you own and express gratitude for having enough food, a roof over your head and enough material possessions?
Do you model generosity both within the family and outside of it? Could you include your grandchildren in serving the community or taking part in giving an international gift to those less fortunate than your own family?
Teach Delayed Gratification
Waiting for the things we want is difficult for young and old alike. But learning to wait is an important life skill—one that makes a great deal of difference in becoming a successful adult. So it’s vitally important that we don’t buy into satisfying our grandchildren’s every whim the moment they decide they want something.
When appropriate, you might help your grandkids learn how to save for something they want and make your gift just a part of what they need to reach that goal.
Life Isn’t Fair
We’ve all heard children cry out in despair, “That’s not fair.” And sometimes they’re right because life isn’t fair. You might be the voice of wisdom who teaches them that though life isn’t always fair, there is still much to be thankful for.
Here again is an opportunity to tell stories from your own life or knowledge in which good people learn to be thankful and kind rather than demanding all the things they want for themselves.
There’s a Lot to Be Thankful For
Grandparents can teach children to look for more than material things to make them happy. Have those conversations in which you wonder at the natural world and its beauty and value the friendships and other relationships in life that make living such a rich experience.
Children often can understand a lot more about life than they’re able to express in words. They’re little sponges soaking in the life lessons taught them. So go ahead, grandparents, do your part to build kindness, goodness and gratitude into the character of your grandchildren.
A good resource on this topic is Kristen Welch’s book, Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World.
Take a look at this article: Teaching Children Gratitude