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How to get a 4yo [or any child] to understand...

This morning as per usual, I rush home after I clock out at 7a to try to get home right as the DH is leaving so that the kids aren't alone, then get them cleaned up and dressed for school so needless to say I'm doing the best I can to help provide for them along side my husband.

Today as we got in the car, my son has a sullen look on his face, so of course I'm like what's wrong baby. He responds that he doesn't want to get in this car, he wants another car. This kind of upset me and disappointed me all in once. My husband JUST finished paying our car note off and spent half the night finding the correct insurance for us, I have to get the tag this week and get the car serviced. It's a nice car. 2010 Nissa Rouge, we bought it on his birthday...

I told him that wasn't a nice thing to say, that mommy and daddy work really hard to have this car for him and his sister and that some children don't have parents with cars and that they have to ride the bus or walk. I emailed his father and told him and he was just as surprised to hear this from our son.

I asked him the same question I will now present to you: How do you teach a 4yo about gratitude and appreciation?

Answer Question

Asked by TutuKisses at 9:34 AM on Jan. 29, 2013 in General Parenting

Level 2 (10 Credits)
Answers (9)
  • I would have questioned further. "What kind of car do you want? A convertible? Oh, that would be really cool." But I wouldn't have taken is an being ungrateful per se.
    To encourage gratefulness I have always made my kids write thank you notes for the things they received. As they have gotten older, I expect longer letters. We do Operation Christmas child boxes each year and at 4 I started letting them do their own box (within reason, but I let them help pick the stuff) - I told them they were going to children that wouldn't get any thing else for Christmas. And then a couple times/year we would pick out a few of their toys that they weren't playing with much and give them away.

    Answer by missanc at 11:01 AM on Jan. 29, 2013

  • This is such a hard age, it's when I started teaching my son about gratitude, empathy etc. We just went along the same lines as you; there are some children out there that do not have a car and have to walk, kids that dont have toys so you're lucky to have them, how would you feel if we didn't have a car, toys,enough food etc. Trying to show them that they ned to be grateful for what they had.
    One Christmas my son really wanted a Mr. Potato head so we got that and a Woody toy. He opened Woody first and started crying because thats not what he wanted so he had to go to his room with no toys, and didnt get to open the rest of his things til later, and then when he opened Mr. Potato head we talked to him again.

    Answer by cassie_kellison at 9:40 AM on Jan. 29, 2013

  • sometimes kids say things...and honestly, i think its silly that his opinion upsets and disappoints you. he's 4. they say what they are thinking and dont always understand why we take it the wrong way. i wasnt there to hear his tone, but i wouldnt take this one statement as him being an ungrateful child. you explained to him why you have the car you have & how lucky you are to have it. thats how you teach them to appreciate things. show when you are grateful too, this is good modeling.

    this is a normal thing for a 4 year old to big deal so long as you calmly & understandingly correct it.

    Answer by okmanders at 11:04 AM on Jan. 29, 2013

  • I wouldn't take what he said to heart. Did you ask him what kind of car he wanted? I bet he says "Lightening McQueen's Car", a Fire Engine, a Garbage Truck or a Monster Truck! Ask him & see what he says. At that age they have no comprehension for money & what things cost. Appreciation is learned from seeing others being appreciative.


    Answer by ILovemyPaulie at 11:30 AM on Jan. 29, 2013

  • @cassie_kellison thank you

    @missanc that's cool, I think I will try to do that. this year we picked toys for the salvation army but I've never thought about Christmas thanks.

    @okmanders i don't think it's silly at all, I know my child and I know his character. This is something that alarmed me because it's out of his character. When my son says something that just pops in his 4yo mind it's about a dream he had about monsters, where he was the hero; not what he does and doesn't want in something in regards to things that are provided for him. He has an excellence example of what gratitude is, I've been raising them in such a way. So no, this is not normal for my son otherwise I would have laughed or created a conversation. So yeah, silly was the wrong choice of words, and yes I took offense.

    @ILovemyPaulie I wished, he didn't because I knew he wasn't. He had actually went to another SUV until I told him to come get in the

    Comment by TutuKisses (original poster) at 2:27 PM on Jan. 29, 2013

  • I got reamed on this site the other day because I "expected my four-year-old to appreciate me doing the things that mothers do." I personally think you handled the situation right, but there are those who would say kids of that age can't really see things beyond themselves and their own little world. Just keep up the good work, and hopefully one day gratitude will sprout, but it's true a small child won't understand working all night, car payments, insurance, etc.

    Answer by Ballad at 2:45 PM on Jan. 29, 2013

  • I don't think your feelings were silly at all, but I also believe that valid feelings inside us in reaction to things don't indicate that something "wrong" happened or that there was a problem. It tells us more about us, about our sore spots & triggers, than it tells us about what was going on in the child or what was intended. While our feelings always are valid, I do think it can be hurtful to react to our children based on our own feelings, interpretations & judgments; I believe it is helpful to work to understand them accurately for what they intend rather than in light of what their feelings trigger in us. This is work, though!
    I do know what it's like to be disappointed & dismayed in my child's opinions/reactions. We can't help our feelings.
    I try to feel my feelings & engage the child (to increase my understanding/perspective & honor his feelings.) Realize that it hurt or bugged you & respond with "Really?" or "Yeah?"

    Answer by girlwithC at 6:01 PM on Jan. 29, 2013

  • For me the bottom line is that we learn empathy best by experiencing empathy from others, rather than by being instructed in it. When children experience empathy from their parents for their feelings & perspective, they learn what it's like to be accepted & understood. We can guide them by sharing the info that you did, but there's no reason that it has to be in the context of chiding them, or pushing against their opinions or feelings as somehow wrong or disloyal, or suggesting that there's something wrong with wanting something different than what you have. We can have healthy limits (such as not taking their expressed wishes as something to go out & "grant," lol!) without making it unacceptable to say what he's thinking or wishing.
    This is easier said than done when you're triggered in the moment. But I think it's a healthy practice.

    You and your husband sound like hard-working people who sacrifice & give a lot!

    Answer by girlwithC at 6:13 PM on Jan. 29, 2013

  • Make them work hard for what they want then they will understand what you go through, also he is young enough he does not truly understand.

    Answer by Im-HiDdEn at 2:55 AM on Feb. 2, 2013

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