How Not to Raise an Entitled Kid (or be an entitled grown-up)

The man sitting beside my daughter looked to be somewhere in his mid-sixties.  When he learned she’s a college student he offered her a piece of sage advice, something he wished someone had told him when he was her age.

“Thank everyone who helps you along the way.”

Not doing so was his biggest regret, he said.  In the past three years he’s made an effort to express more gratitude.  It’s changed his personal and professional relationships.  It’s made him a happier man.  He wished he’d started sooner, he confessed.

Of course he’d always said “thank you”, he went on to explain.  But his thanks had been so general, a matter of politeness more than purpose. It hadn’t had much impact on the person he thanked.  Or him.

“Do you know what I mean?” he asked.

Yeah. We do.

It’s easy to say the perfunctory “thanks” but not adequately express our gratitude to those around us.  It’s easy to take people for granted.  To expect help.  To feel entitled to it, even.

Saying “thanks” is different from expressing thanks.  One is motivated by politeness; the other motivated by purpose.  One is easily forgotten; the other remembered. One is a nicety, the other is a necessity if you want to impact a life by recounting how the life impacted you.

Saying thank you is good.  Expressing it is better.

Expressing thanks is an intentional choice.  It’s not something we do out of habit…at least not at first. Expressing thanks never speaks in sweeping generalities—it talks of specifics. Moments we remember. Words that impacted us. Actions that changed our lives.

All of us have people we can thank; a friend, a co-worker, a teacher, a mentor.  But what if we started expressing gratitude to those closest to us? These are the people we most often take for granted.

When it comes to our closest relationships, it takes little effort to expect help. But it takes concentrated effort to express thanks for help.

Because we figure they owe it to us.  It’s what they’re “supposed to do”.

Here’s the beautiful part about pausing long enough to notice someone else’s efforts on our behalf:  Gratitude breeds gratitude. The greatest people to be around are always the most grateful people around. Click To Tweet

If we want those around us to be grateful, we’ve got to lead the way. If gratitude breeds gratitude, entitlement breeds entitlement. Which kind of person do you want to be?  Which kind of person do you want your kids or co-workers to be?

When our kids were little JP led by adding a one simple line into his prayer at dinnertime: “Lord, thanks for mom who made this food for us.”

He said this every night, whether I’d made a meal from Barefoot Contessa or opened a box of Macaroni and Cheese. It was a small thing but it had a big impact on me (I felt appreciated) and on our kids (they learned to be grateful for the daily things we do for one another).

Maybe you and I could lead the way in our sphere of influence, too.  It’s simple but we have to be intentional. Here are four easy ways to start expressing thanks:

  1. This week say “thank you” to someone every day.

Don’t wait for the big stuff, express gratitude for the small stuff; the stuff you might normally take for granted. Be specific about what you’re thanking them for.

  1. Don’t expect anything in return.

Instead of focusing on how much you want to be appreciated focus instead on making others feel appreciated.

  1. Put it in writing

Write a card, send an email or a text message.  Tell your friend, family member, roommate or co-worker something you appreciate about them.

  1. End your night by saying “thank you” to God.

When your head hits the pillow, take a few silent moments to tell God thank you for the everyday things you might normally take for granted.

Sage advice is hard to come by.  I don’t want my daughter to waste lessons from those who’ve gone before her.  I don’t want to waste the advice either. Let’s try expressing thanks and see what happens.  I’ll bet we’ll find we wish we’d started sooner.

“Appreciation can change a day, even change a life. Your willingness to put it into words is all that is necessary.” – Margaret Cousins

Connect with Donna on twitter @donnajonesspeak or Instagram at donnaajones.


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