Ginta: Bedtime ritual puts focus on being grateful

Daniela Ginta / Kamloops Daily News
February 16, 2013 01:00 AM

I think of it as an exaggerated sense of entitlement.

It happens to the best of us. Our kids will simply behave like that occasionally - like the whole world is there to serve them and cater to their needs. Like they deserve it. All of it, and just because.

It's easy to feel rather incensed and wonder, "Why do kids nowadays have that sense of entitlement that seems to have eluded previous generations?"

Is it that life has become so fast paced that we forget to create opportunities for them to appreciate the things and, thus, they are taken for granted?

Or is it that every generation has this sense of entitlement and it manifests itself in different ways? And is it fixable?

Whether it is a learned behaviour - adults are often guilty of it too - or simply a consequence of our parenting and societal circumstances, common sense whispers that it is a slippery slope.

I believe the more entitled one feels, the less empowered they are. There is no room for appreciation and for building a much better quality: resilience.

Everyone needs to learn how to serve, I once told the boys. They laughed and thought I was being funny.

But, I explained to them, when people get things done for them they tend to forget how something gets done to begin with. The effort, time and energy, thoughtfulness, hard work - all of these can be, and are, easily overlooked if you don't get to be on the other side.

When children have a chance to do things, sloppy and slow and awkward perhaps in the beginning, they get to taste being appreciated. That's empowering - as it is for all of us.

Doing it all the time can make one resentful. Never doing it leads to that exaggerated entitlement. When it comes to children, by offering them too much we're robbing them of feeling empowered and capable.

Everything is set on fast forward. We would rather have things done quickly so we can move on to the next item on the day's list. From chores to preparing meals and going places, parents do the work and children, generally, are spared because their parents can do quickly and efficiently.

I used to do everything just to have the chores out of the way so we could do the fun stuff.

But doing things that way left me exhausted, and revealed in my boys the ugly side of being served: an increased sense of entitlement.

So, I changed my approach. I began to ask for their help around the house.

The boys gained a new perspective. I heard, "Mom, I feel so grown up." They felt capable, proud.

It works with our bedtime routine, too. Every night after we read and redefine pre-sleep silliness yet again, the boys settle for the ritual of "What Are We Grateful For?"

It's just like that; we talk about what we're grateful for - grateful for food, clean water, all the good people we have in our lives; grateful for being able to walk to school safely; for having a school.

The first time I put clean water on my list they opened their eyes wide. "Really, Mom?"

They added it to theirs after we talked about places where water is more precious than diamonds, and after being very thirsty a few times.

In time, they developed their own lists. It's always interesting to hear what makes them feel grateful. No matter how viciously they jump at each other during the day, they are grateful to have each other.

No matter how they whine about that lentil soup at dinner, they are thankful for food. They are thankful for being healthy, and they know it is not just happening, so they thank me for taking care of that - of them.

This bedtime ritual is a reiteration of the simple things that make life possible.

No sense of entitlement whatsoever.

Daniela Ginta is a mother, scientist, writer and blogger. She can be reached at daniela.ginta@gmail.com, or through her blog at www.thinkofclouds.com.


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