I am the mother of a three year old, who fortunately for me, is extremely grateful for everything. She almost never complains about anything she receives and says thank you alot. She also helps out with almost anything. I am getting married to a man who has a 7 year old. He is total opposite. Having been raised different, he doesn't appreciate anything he receives and feels he should get everything. He doesn't say thank you, hardly ever, and complains about anything we take him to do or cook...he always wants to eat out only. Any advice on how to work with two different thankful levels? I think its extremely unfair to never take one to do something because the other is never thankful for it and complains. We have tried to talk to him about it and point out what he has versus what others don't (he has alot more than my daughter does), but he doesn't get it.
Hugs Momma, new transitions are sometimes challenging . I have never lived through such a time personally, however, I have seen a good friend go through something very similar. At first she was very frustrated with the step children and their behavior (very different expectations and allowances for certain types of behavior), but in time she really got a good idea what their lives were like prior to joining her family. She actually developed a lot of empathy for them and her goal then became to model this type of behavior OVER and OVER again. Eventually, it became the family "culture"-and although not without difficutly at times. Best wishes to you-I'm thinking that seeing your interactions with your daughter will be beneficial for your new DSS.
Part of his grumbling may be an expression of his uneasiness with the changes in his life. Gaining a new authority figure and a toddler are difficult events, just getting a sibling can be earth shattering and unpleasant but is softened by having parents who adore you still. In this instance he gets a new stepmom who adores the new sibling and doesn't think much of him and his ungrateful ways.
Even gaining a stepparent is difficult, I started running away when my mom got married again when I was ten. I didn't know how else to handle the difficult emotions and for your stepson negativity might be the way he deals with the complex emotions he is having. I think trying to be understanding and help him process the feelings underneath his unhappiness is a good idea.
It is easy to blame his parenting but I seriously doubt that is the root of the issue. Having a stepparent isn't really something to be grateful for or appreciate, especially if they bring kids into the mix, it eventually can be (and for me is) but it takes a long long time to reach that point. I wouldn't expect a grateful attitude from a child who has so much to cope with.
Edited by One_Girl - 1/13/14 at 7:19pm
Hopefully DH-to-be is on the same page as you with the expectations - that will help. Maybe it's something that slipped through the cracks in the past and once the newness of things becomes old hat and he sees you modeling behaviors with your LO it will eventually sink in. I wouldn't focus too much on the negative aspect or pointing out the negatives that he's expressing but definitely play up the good things and the times he does express gratitude for things and he'll catch on to what your expectations are.
Echoing that this may well just be an age thing. My 2.5 year old expresses genuine gratitude and enjoys helping and chores as much as any game. She's 2.5. That's typical of that age. Please be very careful comparing a 3 year old with an 8 year old. They are just very different animals.
Also, in terms of "stuff", for my 12 year old, "stuff" (and NICE stuff) started accumulating. She got interested in fewer things that were high-quality...and as gifts and life passes she has a lot of great "stuff". She's not spoiled but, yes, she has a lot "more" than my 3 year old. I shake my head at the day my 3 year old inherets all the 12 year old stuff AND receives gifts of her own. Oy - it's going to be crazy!
Here is a recent article on gratitude: http://altwire.utne.com/rt/buddhism_v3/research-finds-gratitude-works-like-a-mu/67656e465a43737138465a655a372f625558733451513d3d
I would say more than anything, to not sweat this right now. 8 and having a new blended family has plenty of challenges without having the step-parents comparing kids. I totally agree with One_Girl! Whatever you do to encourage gratitude in yourself, your partner, your 3 year old is probably enough -- modeling is the best thing. A "talk" about gratitude doesn't seem like it would be very effective to me. Rather, model it in your family, be grateful for your new step-son and I'll be gratitude will flow from that.
Also, offer this child a clean slate everyday. It is VERY hard for children (and adults) to feel as though they are expected to change patterns of behavior. If you feel you must discuss some issue of being grateful, limit it to one very specific incident.
"DSS, I know that movie that we just saw wasn't quite your cup of tea but do you think that maybe we could talk about what you did like about it, or at least change the subject? There were things I enjoyed about the movie and I'd rather focus on that right now. Is there anything you liked about the film?
The 7 year old sounds like my 10 year old. She just wants and expects things, and getting things is so natural to her that it's almost like she resents saying thank you. My 14 year old is much more appreciative. I will say my 10 year old is starting to turn a corner, but I think in part it's because her sense of entitlement did enable me to kind of crack down on all the things she gets that she thinks are par for the course.
I've experienced this, too: My four year old is very thankful and helpful. My seven year old constantly complains about everything. I took her sledding (all my kids alone) and she complained how I wouldn't push her up the hill with a baby on my back. I do insist that at the end of the day she try to think of one thing to be thankful for every day and write thank-you notes, but I have heard that this is a sort of negative age.
OP, have a look at this adorable article that paints a picture of how common it is for toddlers to be super helpful: http://www.mothering.com/community/a/the-i-help-bag-a-way-to-engage-curious-toddlers