As the holiday season draws nearer we will all undoubtedly witness many selfish children, maybe even face head-on this most undesirable trait in our own children. I have worked hard, and I am sure that you have done the same, to instill a sense of gratitude in both of my children. In my opinion there is nothing worse than a bratty, inconsolable, self-centered child. Refer back to my post on Selfishness vs. Self-responsibility for a more detailed description. I point these children out to mine, granted they are rather hard to miss. The red faces, the high pitched keening screams, you know, the screams that rattle your molars? They serve as a good example to my children of how not to act, ever, especially in a public place.
Some things I have found that work and (some things that I have not tried) are in the list below:
- Make a List
- Set the Example
- Try going without
- Say Thank You often
- Give blessings before eating
In my family I talk often about what other people in the world have to do without, at least with my oldest daughter. She responds with incredulous horror most of the time. Not understanding why people are so mean, and why people don't do anything about this obvious problem. I tell her that most of the time, people have made bad decisions to get to those points, I have been there and because of bad decisions. But in some cases, I tell her, that there are charities that do good things for those people that are really in dire need of help.
Next on the list is - Set the example. This is probably one of the easiest things on the list for you the parent to do. Let them see you show common courtesy to the people you meet in your everyday life. I often shock the young people on the other side of the intercom at the drive-thru of local restaurants. I say please and thank you, sometimes even responding to their greeting as I drive up, with a 'I'm doing fine, how are you doing?'
Right now I am not a rich man, although I hope to be. So doing without comes naturally to me and my family. Yet to many families, this is probably the hardest thing to do of anything that is on the above list. I and my oldest daughter, Juliet, have made bread or even hamburger buns, rather than go out and buy those products. Me and my wife, Danielle, don't buy much for ourselves or our children for Yule. But we do our best to make those gifts count for very much. I personally don't agree with the parents that buy their children the world and the moon and the stars. These are the children that don't appreciate what they have because there is nothing that they don't ever not have. We only have one car, so there have been times that my wife, when I am work, takes Lassair on a walk to the corner store. Something that is unheard in many families that I know. We as Americans, would rather be up to our eyeballs and beyond in debt, than be inconvenienced in any way.
This last tip sort of coincides with the second list item, but deserves a second mention. Say thank you often and mean it, really really mean it. To your kids, to your wife, to everyone else on the planet that ever does anything for you, no matter how small. Your kids are watching whether you think they are not. We may think that our kids never pay attention to anything, especially us parents, but they catch much if not all that we do. Just try to talk about Yule gifts in front of them, without them catching on.
I have not taken my children on volunteering trips. But I do encourage them to help out if we are out at a friend's house. They also help out a lot around my house. We have chore charts and small rewards when the kids manage to fill up the chart full of stars. People in general tend to be more grateful for things that they either have to pay for themselves, or that they had to work for. The harder they work, the more grateful that they usually wind up being.
To some Pagans this may be to Christian in nature but prayer does not necessarily have to be anti-pagan. I will cover different kinds of prayers tomorrow, but today I will talk about praying before meals. Teach the children to whom they need to be grateful to for the blessings that they receive in this life. Tell the Goddess and the God thank you. Sometimes they need to hear it as much as you need to say it. Below is a sample prayer, feel free to use it for your personal use or write your own.
Blessed Mother and Holy FatherWith the fast approach of Yule, it is a good time to express gratitude and to encourage this in our children. Gather together on Yule or the eve before it around a burning Yule log, if you have a fireplace, or in my case around the Yule tree, gaily decorated, and talk about the past year and the good things that you have received. It may be a good idea to do this before you open gifts, so that the kids don't just rattle off a list of what they just received. Talk also about what is coming up in the next year.
We thank you for these blessings before us
For the food we eat, and for what we drink
May our blessings multiply under our hands
With your everlasting grace
So Mote It Be!
Hopefully these things help you in your quest to be a better Father. Be grateful for your kids and teach them to be grateful for the things that they receive. A person who is grateful, tends to receive much more in their lives than the bitter and resentful.