16 answers

How to Teach Appreciation and Gratitude to My Almost 7 Year Old

Ok here is my problem... My step-son is about to 7 at the end of this month. The problem is that he does not so any appreciation or gratitude for what he has. Let me tell you a little back ground. Last year I was not in town for his birthday so he ended up having 2 birthdays, one on our side and another one on his mom's side. Since that has happen he has developed an "expected" attitude. He wanted 2 Halloween costumes this year because he could be a "ninja" at his moms and then something else with us. We made it though Halloween with only one costume but now it is time for his birthday. We told his mom that we only wanted one birthday where "all" of his friends can be together, but she told us that she wanted to do something on her own. Now, he has told us that he wants at birthday with us too so his friends can come and give him presents. We asked him what if his friends don't give him a present? And his reply was he would be mad.

After this conversation, we decided to not give him a birthday because all he wanted was "presents" from his friends. I don't want to punish him for the differences between the houses but how do you teach an almost 7 year old how to appreciate what he gets and what he already has? Help, I am at my wits end with his attitude!!

1 mom found this helpful

What can I do next?

Featured Answers

Perhaps you already got this suggestion, but how about a "donate to a charity" gift request? Maybe he gets to pick a charity that he would like people to support, or has an opportunity to learn about the ones that his friends' families pick.

He's a bit too young to tell his friends not to get him anything, but maybe you could contact the parents & let them know what's going on. Don't tell them they've got a money limit, but let them know the problem & what you're trying to do to fix it & ask if they can keep their gift under a certain amount please (but that's only okay if you know the parents).
If his mom is going to have a big party for him, there's no reason that you need to have another party. It sounds like you are at least on speaking terms w/mom-maybe you can alternate years of "big" parties. My boys switched to parties every other year after kindergarten. We still do a birthday dinner & gifts, but no party with friends.
A friend told her girls that if they didn't learn to appreciate the toys they had, they would start standing outside the Goodwill store & hand out their gifts to kids who don't have as much as they do. I weed through toys before every birthday & Christmas, taking out what they don't play with much & making room for the new stuff. You could do something like that & let him know that for every new gift, he's got to donate a toy for kids who don't have as many as he does-if he gets 4 toys, he donates 4 (but not the McDonald's toys, my boys tried that once).
Good luck!

More Answers

Instead of giving him a party this year from "your" house, you could say that since he's having a party at his mom's you are going to do a service project or other activity that will let him give back instead of always receiving. Maybe have a birthday party for the homeless kids? Work at a soup kitchen? We can't just tell our kids that giving is better than receiving, we have to show them and give them opportunities to experience it.

1 mom found this helpful

Your seven-year-old is a smart cookie who knows how to size up a situation! Two families, twice as many presents, right? Seems logical to me! It's certainly logical to a child.

For what it's worth, many people four or five or six times that old don't get the whole gratitude business, either! They don't appreciate what they have because they don't notice what they HAVE. Gratitude has to be learned by us all - nobody's born with it.

You need to let the teaching begin with you, of course, since you're the grownup. How thankful are you, out loud, for things? Start speaking it. Be thankful for your children, for your husband, for your home, even when the plumbing doesn't work. Look for things to appreciate - the littlest things. Look for positive things in life and respond to them with thankfulness. When anybody gives you something or does something for you, write that person a note of thanks.

You might talk with your husband about how to celebrate some events without loot. When your own birthday comes up, for instance, could you give your family members presents (small ones!) instead of receiving them? Or could you do some sort of giftless celebration, like going somewhere special instead? If materialism is downplayed in general at your house, but fun isn't (!), your son will begin to catch on.

I don't know where or how you live, but when my children were small we knew families with very little materially and my kids learned how to do things for them (and others) without letting on who was doing those things. Their school helped out families who needed help, too, and my kids' appreciation for what they had increased at those times.

Seven is still pretty young. Your smart boy is just getting to a point where he's becoming really aware of other people as people, not just "wait staff." This is a great time to begin modeling appreciation at your home! You're a very savvy mom and your children are blessed to have you.

1 mom found this helpful

Definately tackle gratitude on a daily basis as to model and teach. Maybe play a game at supper to see how many times as a family we can say thank you for things. Or when someone says they are thankful make sure you give a hug with "you're welcome" and let them know how happy you feel inside knowing you were able to help them be happy. He will eventually learn, but its still important to tell him before situations like parties how yo expect him to behave after receiving gifts from people. I like the thank you card idea too!

I would suggest that (in addition to the great suggestions from the others here) you expose him to other kids / families who are not so fortunate. Does he know that some kids go to bed hungry every night? that some families don't have a home? Show him pictures or talk about things like that, or even go to a homeless shelter or food bank with him. That may help provide some perspective.

I read this in a Family Fun magazine and thought it was a neat idea. The family in the article played "The Present Game". Each member of the family went around the house and found items to give one another. The items were only for the game and not to be kept. Then they opened the gift (they put them in a bag for each person). Then the person receiving the gift had to give a genuine "Thank You" to the person for the gift stating something they liked about the gift. Green is my favorite color; Baby dolls are cute; etc. Here is the link to the article: http://familyfun.go.com/playtime/the-art-of-gratitude-807...

Good Luck!


What has worked with my son, but still needs some reminders is to have an allowance. He understands the value of a dollar, and also can respect when we tell him no for a financial reason. He can also see the background in it and realise how hard the family has to work for what we have. Its let to a lot of deep conversations. Maybe spend some more one on one time with him, maybe take him to a shelter. I've started an award chart, and for every check mark my son and daughter get 5 cents. Its not a lot, but they can potentially earn over 6 bucks through the week. They both have a savings account, and we have tried not to focus on the materialist things for birthdays and events. Its very hard at this age, especially if hes the only one this age. Good luck!

Perhaps you already got this suggestion, but how about a "donate to a charity" gift request? Maybe he gets to pick a charity that he would like people to support, or has an opportunity to learn about the ones that his friends' families pick.

I wouldn't worry too much about it he's still a little boy. I remember being a kid and all important holidays and birthdays was about the fun stuff you would get and do. I was a bit selfish as a kid but as an adult I am more excited about buying stuff for others and appreciate when I am thought about. My daughter still is about presents, but over this last year ( she is going to be 7) she is also starting to understand about the joy of giving and makes stuff for me and my husband all the time. I think if you as a parent model gratitude and and appreciation, he will get it as he gets older. Gratitude is not something you can teach, only learn. Perhaps instead of having a big party have him invite a friend or two over to go to a movie or do something together, celebrate with a cake. Its his birthday and let him feel special. Also go through all his old stuff and pick out some things to give to shelters. Talk about how there are other kids that don't have homes and things and how lucky he is. Perhaps you could start letting him earn an allowance so he can see how hard you work to earn stuff or money ( which ever you feel more comfortable with) Your right it is very frustrating, but he sounds like a normal kid. Also food for thought, people have different ways of perceiving love and showing it. Perhaps gifts is your sons way of seeing affection. Good luck.

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