Today’s post, written by Dr. Tim Elmore, originally appeared on Jon Gordon’s blog. Tim Elmore is the founder and president of Growing Leaders, an Atlanta-based non-profit organization created to develop emerging leaders.
Very few parents enjoy a day or week without hearing their kids complain. It seems like our culture has conditioned us today to want more, to believe we deserve more, to compare our lives to others, to feel entitled to everything — and to get negative if we don’t get what we want.
Adolescents were surveyed forty years ago and asked how many possessions they feel they need to survive. Their answer? Fifty necessities. Recently, the same question was asked of teens, and they responded: A little over 300 items. We seem to need more and more to be happy.
So how do we foster a positive attitude in our kids in this entitled world?
For one week, establish a “no complaining” policy in your home. Remind your kids that no one likes a complainer. Tell your kids you don’t want them to come to you with a problem or complaint unless they have a possible solution for it, or they have a positive way of looking at it. If they complain and have no positive way of seeing the situation, have them pay one of two penalties:
1. Celebrate a victory. For every negative thought, have your kids come up with a positive one. For instance, if they insult a sibling, have them cite a positive quality about that same sibling. If they whine about an unfortunate reality, have them cite a positive advantage they enjoy simultaneously.
2. Pay a fine. If your child just cannot think of anything positive to say, have them pay a dollar each time they get negative and stay negative. Failure to think about a victory or an optimistic thought will cost them some money. You may be surprised how quickly they learn to get positive.
Positive attitudes have little to do with how difficult or easy circumstances are. They have everything to do with the perspective people have going into their circumstances. I know one mom who worked to instill a positive attitude in her son; she emphasized it was better to be grateful and thinking of others, than thinking of himself.
Unfortunately, the little boy wasn’t too popular at school, and one Christmas he wanted to give a Christmas card to all the students in his class. His mom was sure he’d be disappointed that his classmates would not give a card to him. When he returned home at the end of the day, she overheard her son saying as he walked in the door: “Not one. Not one…” She feared he was complaining about how he didn’t get a card from anyone. But when she listened further, she overheard him musing, “Not one. I didn’t forget one person when I gave my cards away.” She breathed a sigh of relief, realizing she’d achieved her goal.
Attitudes are contagious. Are yours worth catching?
“Finally brothers, whatever is good, and honest, and lovely and of good report, think on these things…” (Philippians 4:8)
What can you do to grow positive attitudes in your kids this Christmas?