“Daddy, they put pickles on my hamburger!”
“Daddy, I wanted the red bike with shocks, not this black one…”
“Daddy, I can’t even get Wi-Fi here!”
“Daddy, this line up isn’t moving at all, Disneyworld sucks…”
I find myself saying one line over and over to my children, “Do you know how lucky you are?” – but I am beginning to realize that they really have no clue, no frame of reference, nothing to compare to so they can understand how lucky they really are. How lucky we all are…
How many of you have uttered this classic parenting line,
“… there are starving children in Africa that would love those green beans…”
The reality is that there are probably children right now, from your own neighbourhood, sitting beside your kids, going to school every morning on an empty stomach. This article isn’t so much about food; it’s much bigger than that. It is about a recent reality check that I experienced…
How do we, as parents, provide our children a frame of reference, so they begin to understand how lucky and privileged we are here in Canada?
Is it doing missions work in some faraway land?
Is it visiting local food banks and soup kitchens?
Is it watching infomercials with starving children surrounded by mud and flies?
I don’t know. I am struggling; struggling with how I can help my children develop an attitude of gratitude.
An attitude of gratitude is essential because it reduces self-pity and enables resilience and positivity to build in your children. Self-pity is a disease that will eliminate joy, reduce motivation and inhibit growth in youth and adults. Research shows that people who enjoy the small things in life and exercise an attitude of gratitude have improved productivity, self-esteem and an overall higher quality of life. We all want that for our children.
We live in a world of abundance, wealth, and ‘stuff’. From high quality schools and teachers to our amazing health care system, our children have the best of the best. Do they even know that?
I am beginning to realize that I must take responsibility for educating my children. They are how they are; living this life with a sense of entitlement, because of me, not because they are ingrates.
Gratitude needs to be taught and modeled like any other skill. If I was to be graded on my effectiveness as a parent to teach and guide on this topic, then I have bombed the midterm and need to cram for the final. My ‘stay-oblivious-head-in-the-sand’ ostrich technique is not serving me or my family.
From my days doing outreach ‘big brother’ work on a native reserve and running a childcare center in a small town, I know that not all children have happy safe childhoods. With family violence, addictions, poverty, alcohol abuse and neglect, I am not sure how some kids make it to school smiling everyday. But they do.
It’s not that I want my children to complain less, eat more, or constantly thank me for this life of privilege. But I can’t sugar coat and protect them from the fact that we live in a world of privilege and others are not as fortunate. Do I want my children to go to bed at night worried about the children starving in Africa? No, but yes. Where is the balance? What is the cost of being enlightened?
I believe that I, this Canadian dad, is only beginning to appreciate how blessed and fortunate I am to have family, health, and prosperity. I quickly run out of fingers and toes when I begin to count my blessings.
Do my children need to know how lucky they are? Absolutely. But how can I help them? THAT is my challenge… can you help?
Please share your thoughts on my blog at www.thedadvibe.com – I am really struggling and interested in how you may be helping your children develop their attitude of gratitude in an enlightened way. I want to write a follow up article with all of your great suggestions!
Until next time…
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