There is a pile of paper on the floor, the dog has finally settled down and is laying at your feet as the kids have once again sought the retreat of their digital isolation. It’s Christmas in a Digital Decade, kicked off by pandemic-encouraging isolation, and multiple hours of screen time, to avoid “infecting others.” It’s why we feel a little sad as we sit and think about the months of planning that went IN to selecting, saving for, and purchasing gifts. We somehow feel“ left out of the equation” not quite sure if they can even appreciate those sacrifices.
Let’s break this down an extra layer. Online school has become about menial and meaningless tasks, aimed at helping students feel successful and engaged with very little thought other than to complete the assignment. Tests are given with extra helps, notecards, open books, etc because we don’t want anyone to be left behind. Even athletes are sometimes given a pass on skill in an effort to “put everyone on the court” whether they’ve earned it or not. Now, political sciences are rewarding positions of authority and government, not on skill, experience, or degree, but by skin color. Then danger is in what all of this is communicating to our kids. One lesson is delayed gratification, the other is GRATIFICATION itself.
No one can deny that a common theme among those 30 and under is one of entitlement, but when it hits close to home during the holidays it’s a little harder to ignore. After all, we ARE the generation that was taught to say: Thank you. And, we are one generation removed from “thank you notes” and two generations from “returning the favor.”
But when it comes to gratitude, it’s what ISN’T communicated that can bother us most.
A lack of gratitude not only affects the heart of the person who is ungrateful, but it often hurts the relationship of the person not being thanked. It communicates "I don’t owe you anything" or "I didn't need the action, the gift, the time, etc that you voluntarily gave up for my betterment." No one likes to feel taken advantage of or taken for granted and yet, for many parents, this is exactly what is felt.
How about when we are accused ourselves of not being grateful? That can also be hurtful because we are telling that person “Hey, you aren’t feeling something that you are
supposed to feel.” Often this response to these accusations is taken as an attack and met with a resounding “Yes I am grateful!”
To be frank, no one likes to be told they are ungrateful. We can then gently remind them as we address this with our kids. Be sure to tell them the importance of verbalizing something that they are probably already feeling so they feel like they are being given the benefit of the doubt, rather than being accused.
When someone verbalizes a “thank you”, even if it feels forced, it communicates an appreciation for the effort and sacrifices that person made. This is even sometimes why it IS difficult for others, especially those in power or who struggle with pride to say “thank you” because it is an acknowledgement that “what you did mattered to my life.” This means having to admit that I cannot survive alone on self-reliance and this is very difficult for some.
Know your student and family well enough to be able to recognize whether or not they might struggle with gratitude because of relational hurts. Here's why, it may be MORE difficult for them to show gratitude because showing gratitude also takes vulnerability. For some students who have been adopted, regardless of age, they often feel the need to feel self-sufficient and often don't like to feel "indebted to others." This is a real area of need for kids of adoption.
The BEST practice for teaching gratitude is to lead through example. Be grateful and articulate it verbally when your student does something well. If it’s difficult to find that something, they may need it more than you think. Start out small and let your gratitude grow and you will find they are more eager to please you in future tasks as well. Believe it! The opposite can also be true (check out the article from University of Berkely, it offers some interesting thoughts on this as well). “Gratitude is a language of the heart” promotes author and speaker Andy Stanley.
Colossians 3:15 reminds us: Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.
As we allow PEACE to rule our hearts and live according to the Hope of Christ, not the info of this world, we are called to live at peace with one another which we can do as we live in gratitude for the New Life we have received in Christ.