Gratitude Attitude

I’ve been having some really weird dreams lately. I don’t know if I’m eating too much late at night or what. But a dream I had the other night sparked an actual memory. This led to some reflection on a comment I often hear regarding teens.

Have you ever thought, or heard people say something along the lines of “kids today don’t exhibit the polite and respectful manners that we were raised to have.” Or “why don’t kids appreciate everything they have?”

Back in 1999, when my daughter, Ashleigh, was in second grade, she and I attended a Girl Scout Mommy-Daughter dance. Exciting stuff! Our troop had worked really hard on creating beautiful (award-winning, actually!) centerpieces for our tables. Ashleigh and I had dressed up all sparkly and fancy.

The facility hosting the event had created a magical ambience. The lights were dimmed, and the girls’ eyes were bright. A disco ball overhead sent rainbows skittering around the room and over the girls’ smiling faces.

Just before the dancing began, while we sat at our tables, an announcement was made. In the middle of each table’s carefully crafted centerpiece sat a collectible Millennium Beanie Baby bear. They were awarding it to the girl at each table whose birthday was closest to the new Millennium!

Ashleigh grinned wide. Her birthday was December 25th, a mere five days from New Year’s Eve. (Yes, she shares her special day with the greatest guy who ever lived! But back to my story…) Nobody else at our table was even close!

I reached carefully amongst the foil stars and glitter of our centerpiece and extracted the collectible bear, handing it to her with a matching smile of my own.

Then, from beside me I heard:

“Mommy, I want that Beanie Baby!”
“I’m sorry honey, Ashleigh’s birthday is closest to— ”
“But I waaaant it!” The child’s voice ratcheted up to a full-blown wail.
“Sweetheart…” the girl’s mother said, slightly exasperated.
“Puhleeeeze, mommy. Puhleeeeze can I have it.”
“How about if I buy you one tomorrow,” the mother said soothingly.
“But I want it now!” The girl’s mother looked on helplessly as the child began sobbing inconsolably.I remember thinking, “Buy her one tomorrow? Are you kidding me!”Then before I realized what was happening, Ashleigh had extended the precious bear toward the crying child. “You can have it if you really want it.”
The girl immediately stopped crying and accepted the bear, squeezing it tightly to her chest.

My jaw dropped, and I’ll admit I was torn.

On the one hand, that was a lovely act of kindness on Ashleigh’s part and I wanted to hug her and tell her how proud I was of the compassion she’d shown (which I did). But on the other hand, I was ticked! What the heck! This was a basic parenting 101 misdemeanor—rewarding bad behavior!

Now someone could argue that this particular child was still little, and sensitive, and didn’t really understand the concept behind winning and losing. And should we really hurt her precious budding self-esteem by actually allowing her to experience “losing”?

Um…you know what, I have to say, “Yup!”

I don’t think Ashleigh’s actions, or the girl’s mother promising to buy her one the next day, really helped that child in a positive way. I think what actually happened is the child learned—had probably already learned—that this type of bad behavior got her the results she wanted. Got her what she wanted.

So, here’s a thought: Before we complain that kids today don’t have gratitude attitudes, or exhibit politeness and respect like they should, well, hmmm…maybe we parents need to examine more closely whose fault that might possibly be?


RuthMom said...

Good thouhts!

Anonymous said...

Hey Holly, I could not agree with you more. It is amazing how quickly kids learn that a little begging works for them. I just wish more people could see the cause and effect! Kim W