I’ll never forget the first time I witnessed the mother of all meltdowns. I was walking past Whitey’s at the mall. Not far from me, I heard a small child whining for ice cream. When she didn’t get her way, she began to cry. Before long the crying escalated to screaming, crazy arm flailing and down-right fit throwing.

It was quite the spectacle. People were staring. An older couple shook their heads in disgust. I could just imagine what everyone was thinking.

Look at that spoiled kid.
That mother can’t even control her child.
Somebody give the kid some ice cream so she’ll stop that screaming! 

Suddenly, the little girl threw herself to the floor in a pitiful display of melodrama. That’s when everything went from bad to worse – because she was my child – and I had to deal with her.

I’ll bet we’ve all been there. Maybe you were in the candy aisle at the grocery store. Or the checkout lane at Target. Or maybe in the middle of Toys ‘R Us. Wherever it happened, it’s disappointing and embarrassing when our kids misbehave.

Fit-throwing is typical for toddlers, but eventually we expect our kids to grow up and get over that “all about me” mentality. After all, nobody wants to raise greedy or ungrateful kids.

So here’s the good news. There are simple things we can do to help our kids grow up to become grateful, giving people.

When it comes to teaching my kids generosity, I have to give my husband credit. He works for a company that makes it a priority to help others less fortunate in our community. Whenever he participates in community service projects, he takes our girls along to help.

QCMB Comm Svc 2Over the last several years, my kids have fed the homeless, planted gardens for a women’s shelter, helped build garden boxes with flowers to beautify our city, and filled baskets with necessities for women in need among various other projects.

Yes, feeding the homeless was out of their comfort zone. Yes, planting a garden was hard work. But at the end of the day (whether they admitted it or not), helping others made them feel good. I think these eye-opening experiences have helped our girls be more grateful for what they have – as well as become more compassionate towards others.

I know it sounds old fashioned, but do your kids ever write thank you notes? Personal notes are a great way to show appreciation to a coach or a teacher. It also forces the child to slow down and really think about why they are thankful. A written note makes an impact on the recipient. My husband has coached softball for the last twelve years. I still remember the handful of girls that took time to write him a thank you note.   QCMB Comm Svc 3MODEL CONTENTMENT.
I’ll admit it, I like to shop. But I also need to watch my attitude. Do I complain of having “nothing to wear,” when my closet is packed full of clothes? Do I always want more – more shoes, more clothes, more purses, more Christmas decorations? It’s fun to get new things, but I also need to model how to be content with what I have.

Sometimes I need to remind myself, just because I can give my kids something, doesn’t mean I should. Delayed gratification makes receiving it later so much sweeter. 

Incorporate gratitude into your daily conversations. For example, on a cold night you could simply say, “I sure am thankful we have a warm house.” Even in the midst of bad days, there’s always something to be thankful for.  Be intentional. For example, during dinnertime, take turns sharing one thing you were especially thankful for that day.

Research proves that an attitude of gratitude creates a greater sense of happiness. We all want our kids to be happy. As it turns out, making them happy is more about what we teach them, not what we give them.

I hope these suggestions will keep your “mother of all meltdown moments” to a minimum.

Especially if you’re at the mall, walking by Whitey’s.


  1. Sheri – this post really hit me at the perfect time. I’m struggling with how to model gratitude and kindness to my three-year-old and you gave me a lot of great ideas of ways to talk about it and integrate it into our lives. I love your tips!


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