Saturday, October 11, 2014

How do I teach gratitude?

I read an article not so long ago about how we should not be angry at our kids when they break something. For example, if they break your crystal vase and you go ballistic, the message you're sending your child is the vase is more important than him.

Okay, I get that. I get that point. So when my toddler Iñigo broke my pale blue garden stool with the delicate leaves and flowers print, I didn't get angry. Instead, I scooped him in my arms, away from the dangerous shards, and told him, "I'm so glad you're okay!"

I'm glad he's okay, okay? Let that be clear. But I miss my garden stool. You can just see it here (at the background with the heavy crystal vase perched atop it) on the cover of this book, back when my house was so pretty, it was featured in home magazines and made the cover of a home design book. I miss my garden stool. It wasn't cheap. It was pretty. It had memories of me and Vince as newlyweds. Now it's broken and thrown away. And so now I'm thinking, "Okay, so my message to my son was he is definitely more important to me than a garden stool. But did I also tell him that it's okay to break people's things?"

I'm at a loss these days. Parenting sure isn't easy.

What also really upsets me is when Iñigo plays with his food, throwing it on the floor with glee. Or when Vito asks for food or milk and then he takes a bite or a sip and then says he doesn't want it anymore. Or when Iñigo leaves the refrigerator door open. Or when Vito says, when I tell him to be more careful with his toys or with our things, he replies carelessly, "If it gets lost/broken, we'll just go and buy a new one."

Maybe because I grew up with so little, these things strike a raw nerve. Waste, so much waste! I keep hearing my mother's voice in my head: "Turn off the lights. Finish your food. Take care of your things." You know, stuff all mothers say, except that I know my mother said those things because she didn't eat breakfast and lunch or that she got into debt again just so we can have electricity and water and food and clothes. So when I see my kids wasting, I get upset. One time, after a particularly trying afternoon, I cried, "I work so hard, I don't sleep so I can work all night just to put food on your plate, to buy you your Legos!"

Silly me. They're 4 and 2. What do they know?

I'm grateful that we can afford this lifestyle. There's food, nothing fancy but there's more than enough not just for main meals but for snacks and desserts. The kids don't have a lot of toys but they do have a lot of Legos. They also can play with our iPads and video games. They also enjoy so many art materials. The crayons alone! I spent all of my childhood wishing for the 64-piece Crayola set so much so that when I got a job, I bought myself a box. I never used it. Just stared at it, fingered those slender sticks of colors, and breathed in their waxy smell—childhood dream come true.

My children don't understand how I feel not just because they're so young but because they're surrounded by plenty. My husband and I work so hard to give them a good life. How can I make them understand without withholding things from them? We don't even give them that much. What we give that's plenty is food and our time. Vince and I are there for them all the hours they're awake!

I guess I'm expecting too much. They are so small. But I really do need them to be grateful. It's not just saying "please" and "thank you", which they do say. It's having an attitude of appreciation. I need them to take care of their things, of our things. I seriously cannot have them going about destroying my house and then me pretending to be happy about it! I just don't know how to teach them that Mama loves them above all things but they need to respect Mama's things!

Are they really too young? Am I really expecting too much? Or am I letting my past of a less privileged life overshadow my present abundance?

Father God, please help me be a good steward of the children You gave me and also the material blessings You sent my way. I need my children to know I love them more than any object but I need You to show me how to teach them gratitude. I want to be a good parent and a good homemaker! Amen.

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  1. Hi, Frances! I think I would have done the same thing, - the scooping up, then checking on him like physically, maybe asking him if he's not hurt - all those to show that he's loved first, and then more -like letting him know how I truly feel about the thing, like i'm sad because my favorite thing got broken. Most kids are compassionate, so when they understand why I'm sad, and maybe if I ask him to help me take care of the things that make our house beautiful, I think he'll get the point.
    With regards to food they don't consume, I could just return them back inside the fridge for when they'd want it again later, or maybe I can eat it myself, or with regards to throwing, I could tell them the same thing, like helping me to keep things around nice and pretty. Or for like about the fridge door thing, or breaking the toys, maybe I could explain in my simplest way how those help us live happily and comfortably and that's how they'd work properly. Maybe you can talk to them about how you are grateful that you have those stuff to help you or make you happy, and then stop. Don't try to compare things to how you didn't have those before. All good things, all good things (just like how Olaf said it, haha). Of course staying positive is easier said than done. I mean if you're already stressed out with something else, then de-stressing, and giving yourself some time alone can help, before going back to the kids to try and make them understand, the simplest way you can. Hope these help. :)

  2. Ahh! i'm out of words...but i'm exactly in the same situation, i can totally feel you! :(

  3. Hugs to you Ms. Frances! No matter how old they are I believe we could teach them how to appreciate things they have. To hold things with care for fragile items. When it comes to food, be thankful for what they have because a lot of people die out of hunger.
    Set a good example palagi para gagayahin nila. Halimbawa sa pagkain, show Vito and Iñigo your empty plate every meal. Then if something broke, let them show your love and then explain to them you're sad something important to you will never be there again, set an example using their favore toy. How will they feel if it's lost or broken? It will come a time that you can`t just buy stuff because y have a lot of money.
    I show my eldest those documentaries I'm watching to explain to him that not all children like his age have toys and food on the table whenever they want them. You're not a bad Mom don't feel that way Ms. F! Don't be stress out. Your kids are lucky to have you and Sir Vince as their parents. God bless!


  4. Hi Frances!
    I'm not sure if this will help but I found this effective with my children. Hi Franes!
    Recently I taught my kids ages 5 and 3 about the concept of NEED and WANT. I explained that we can buy needs like food often because we need it to live. But we will only buy what we want like toys on our birthday and Christmas

  5. Frances pag nalaman mo ang sagot dyan, paki blog ha ; )


  6. It is a blessing that a lot of your recent posts hit close to home. I feel that for the past month this is something my husband and I have been struggling to teach our 6yr old. We are not super rich but we are grateful that we have the lifestyle we have - luxury of being with the kids almost 24/7 and that we have food, can travel, etc. So when our son lost something valuable one day, and blurtednout that we just go and buy another one, I also questioned myself, is it something he picked up from us? Certainly it is something my husband and I would say esp if our moms were around (we both grew up with very financially sensible mothers) hay. One thing we ask him to dois to keep a gratitude journal - 3 things he is grateful for everyday. It seems to be helpful because he is becoming conscious of what his blessings are - big or small. For smaller kids you can ask them during prayer or bedtime perhaps?

  7. What I do with my toddler when she plays with her food is we take her out of the table so that she will understand that meal times should be spent for eating and behaving properly. Then we do not give her any special attention if she tries to talk to us or ask us to play with her, explaining to her about the sacred time of eating.

    Also, I hope this article helps....

  8. can totally relate to this. we spent two years waiting for our visa so that we can migrate and give them better lives somewhere we know we can. got not plenty but more than what we used to have so that when these kids take a bite and leave the rest, i feel obliged to finish it. i'm trying to ask them what to draw what we are thankful for since oct 13 is thanksgiving day.. hopefully they'll be able to somehow undertand

  9. What I did with my boys, even at a very early age, in every opportunity I get, I keep telling them how lucky they are to be blessed with so much. I share stories/videos about practicality, pictures of people who hoard things thus spending/ wasting money. I show pictures of not so lucky kids scavenging foods from bins, living in cartons, no toys. I tell them that people who've been blessed much should help others to learn how to pick themselves up to have a better life. That maybe when they grow up they can help others go to good school to learn and be useful. With broken things, walls written on, dried felt pens and glue sticks, I try to let them know the value of things, know the story behind/sentimental value of an object to empathise, and next time be careful. I don't think there's such thing as too early, kids are sponges. They pick up and understand so much. My now 7yo still tells me of a wisdom he picked up when he was a 3yo visiting pinas. We are all great moms.. learning moms. - Grace

  10. I can very much relate to this, even with your experience with the 64-color Crayola box because I did the same thing! :) My kids are 6 and 2 and I also struggle with how to teach them about appreciating what they have. What worked for me (when I was a kid) was hearing about how my papa's life was when he was young but I don't know if that would work with my kids - but I try and tell them, just the same. I also try and remind them every time - about leftovers, playing with water, or not taking good care of their stuff. I find myself exhausted and feeling like a broken record but hoping it will get to them in time.

  11. I am also in the same situation with my 2 year old. Too young to understand that we (I) sometimes resort to shouting. He steps on his books, throw my phone (I sometimes let him borrow for his hi5 videos), or destroy his toys. At this point, I think he will act the way he is even if I try to instill good values just because it is in the nature of children to be playful. Maybe in a few years time, I will be able to make him understand better.

    Sorry if I have no suggestions whatsoever. More power to your blog!


This is all pretty new to me so please feel free to share your mommy wisdom!