Teaching gratitude a ‘basic’ necessity
By Suzanne Broughton
My daughter lowers her tiny feet deep into the bubbling water. “Can I get a flower, too?” she asks me over the soft jazz and humming of jets. Then it hits me, like a blaring headline on one of those tabloids that litter the front shelves of the nail salon: I’m paying 20 bucks for a pedicure (with the extra hand-painted flower!) for a 12-year-old? How did this happen?
I swore I wasn’t going to raise spoiled kids. Oh, yeah, I talked plenty about it before I had kids. Big, boisterous, braggart talk — probably over an expensive glass of wine at a nice restaurant — about kids these days being too entitled. All the other not-yet-parents ardently agreed with me. All of us assured ourselves that our kids would have worker permits at age 10 and live off of hand-me-downs.
Then, like my ban on sugary cereal, all that passion and focus got beat out of me by the end of year one. I pretty quickly lowered my standards to the very basics, like making sure they had clean ears and eat two green things a day. Living in Orange County, Calif., I feel the intense pressure to give my kids more than they need. I lose sleep over it: Do my kids have too much? I know the answer is “yes.” When my head’s hitting the pillow at night, I’d say my prevailing fear for my kids is that they’ll grow into adults who are entitled and can’t make it on their own.
With every generation, that baseline of what we consider a “necessity” changes. My mother would never have paid to have her hair colored at the salon. My dad would have rather blown his nose with his money than pay someone to change the oil in his car. For me, these things now are the “basics,” real necessities that I wouldn’t think of scrimping on. Though I wholeheartedly believe a pedicure is a luxury, I get them regularly and often take my daughter along — for company and girl time, not because I think it’s a necessity for her. But in her mind, I believe they’re already becoming one of her “basics.” And that scares me a little.
I’ve feverishly gone through my kids’ rooms, loading bags of things to give away while telling them (as if it’s their fault) that they have too much stuff! But is “stuff” really the problem? Are things what make kids spoiled or is the culprit an ungrateful attitude? I’ve found that teaching my kids to be thankful for what they have, whether it’s a lot or a little, goes much further than lecturing them on how, when I was a kid, I only got one pair of Ditto jeans.
Thankfulness is the best cure for a spoiled kid. I want her to see that I spend money on pedicures for her, not because we deserve to be pampered with our feet in a whirlpool and our big toes painted with flowers, but because the time with her is important to me. And it’s clearly working because as we left the nail salon that day, unprompted and to my complete and utter joy, my daughter hugged me as we left and said, “Thank you so much, Mom! I love spending this time with you.”
She got it. She got what was really one of the “basics,” and she was grateful.