Wednesday, July 28, 2010


I have heard some parents, from time to time, scratching their heads, asking, "Now why did I spend all this time with these little ingrates, since they're now destroying my house and flinging back-talk at me?"  Knowing our kids, we all know that they'd rather play, yell, pound things, crack pots together, and generally re-enact "Lord of the Flies" rather than do anything we'd prefer.  We also know that hunger, fatigue, and lack of entertainment make for grouchy kids, but sometimes it's difficult for us to handle the grouchiness if it follows a special activity, or if the kids seem oblivious to the idea that we JUST spent a lot of energy to make sure they had a good time at the (fill in the blank).

I was surprised to learn that my family shares some strategies to control un-grateful behavior with others.  I guess parent strategies are like key concepts in different cultures of the world, like the idea of the parallel evolution of "The Trickster" or "Mother Earth," or a Supreme Being in different cultures despite lack of contact between those cultures.  Here are our parent gambits for the thankless moments:

  1. Outlawing all conjugations of bore - boring, bored, boredom, bore-fest, bored-to-death, bore-o-rama, bored-to-the-google-squared-power.  Kids should not be bored (unless they are placed in a plain white padded room with no toys).  However, we do allow for the use of the word "bore" in the sense of  "you're boring a hole in my head with that whining - could you ask me in a different way?"
  2. Creating a grateful session after dinner, and on Fridays when we light candles we say what we're thankful for.  We encourage the kids to name 3 things.  The baby is exempted.
  3. "I'm sorry, I don't think I heard that question without the nice word at the end of the sentence."
  4. "I definitely didn't hear THAT question with the tone of voice you used."
The kids were a little reluctant to do it at first; they weren't sure what to say.  Considering our kids' ages, giving them (especially Claire) some ideas to start.  We've heard some heart-warming gratefuls:

  • I'm grateful for my family.
  • I'm grateful that Charlotte is feeling better.
  • I'm grateful we got to see our family this weekend.
  • I'm grateful for my friend.
We also heard some serious "gratefuls":

  • I'm grateful that our family isn't sick.
  • I'm grateful none of us have died.
  • I'm grateful that we have food and that we're not poor.
  • I'm grateful that Daddy's knee got better.
Some flittish "gratefuls" have made the list, too:

  • I'm grateful that we had pizza today.
  • I'm grateful we got to have dessert today, not like yesterday when we didn't get dessert.
  • I'm grateful for ice cream!
It seems like the kids, at times, really think about things.  We sometimes have to cue them; Claire is, after all, only 5.  I believe that practicing anything makes one better at that thing, and good manners and humility and grateful-ness are no exception.

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