Raising grateful kids: My Kid Needed a Reality Check so I Gave Him One

“No me gusta agua. agua es guácala.” — I don’t like water– water is disgusting. All this because I told him it was time to go shower. Maybe he was just looking for an excuse to not shower, but it was not ok and his attitude was not acceptable.

clean waterIt made me so angry that I knew that I had to give my son a reality check. So I did. I said, “Do you know that not everyone has clean water? Some kids don’t get to have clean water in their homes. Some moms have to walk for a long time with a bucket to fill it up and bring it back to their homes. Some people can’t drink the water because it will make them sick. Not all kids are lucky like you- you have a house, with a bed and a bathroom and clean water. The water you drink doesn’t make your stomach hurt, or make you sick.”


I think these conversations are necessary. I’m trying my hardest to raise a child who will not take things for granted, or feel entitled to X, Y, Z. I want him to know that in a sense he is privileged because he has these things. There are kids who don’t have all this– there are children who would give anything to have access to clean, potable water. How can we raise kids that don’t feel like these things are givens?

When I was little I spent a lot of time in Ecuador. One of the earliest memories I have is going to school with one of my mom’s friends who was a teacher. She taught in a rural area and offered to take me to meet her class. I can’t remember how old I was  but I do remember what I saw. Of course, I was expecting to go to a school like the one I went to in NY but this was not the case. The school was in rural Ecuador and it was not a brick or cement building, it was a sort of shack. The kids didn’t have fancy materials, books or book bags. Talk about a reality check.

When I spent my summers in Ecuador every afternoon the water would be shut off (sometimes the electricity too). We had to rely on our own private cistern in the afternoon. I can tell you that these things definitely made more appreciative of the things we had and I think it’s important to teach my son that there are people in the world who don’t have access to clean water or education. Maybe that is why his water comment bothered me so much. We weren’t allowed to just waste water. We were very aware that water was a precious resource.

I never lacked any food or clean water. I’ve never been homeless and I’ve always gone to school. But I have seen children who did didn’t have a house, who wandered the streets barefoot, who were malnourished;  I have never forgotten those images. So yes, I think my son needs to be exposed to that (which will come in due time) to make him aware and grateful of what he has. That is one of the things I plan on doing to raise a grateful child.

water in a bucket

We need to teach kids to be aware of others’ needs, not only their own. I refuse to raise a self-absorbed clueless kid who think the world revolves around him. It’s one of my biggest concerns as a parent… striking a balance between providing for him and allowing him to have things, and teaching him that there are people who don’t have. Every child should be aware that there are so many people who live in this world without access to things we take for granted– water, a roof over our heads, food. Even in this great and rich city, there are over 24,000 homeless kids! In the United States there are millions of kids that go hungry. (15.3 million children lived in food-insecure households in 2014 according to Feeding America). That is preposterous. Imagine if we could raise a generation that truly cared for others, the power that would have!

My son may not get it. He’s four. Chances are he will say he hates water again to get out of a shower or that he doesn’t “like” his food. But I will keep reminding him that some people aren’t as lucky as he is, some people don’t have clean water, or food. I know he listens. I know because he repeats the things I have said to him.

In my perfect world, all kids in the world would have access to clean, safe running water… I hope I see that in my lifetime.  Until then, I will keep reminding him that he should be grateful because not all little boys and girls are as lucky.

As a parent, how do you strike that balance of giving them what they want/need but not spoiling them? How do you make sure you’re raising children who are grateful and do not take things for granted? 
photo credit: Catch A Falling Star… via photopin (license)
hand photo credit: Hand Splash (50/365) via photopin (license)
child with water buckets photo credit: Please via photopin (license)
Diana Limongi
Diana a mom, activist, nonprofit professional, podcaster and writer from Queens, NY. She writes about motherhood, activism, raising my multilingual kids, culture and travel. She and her multicultural family live in Queens, NY.

1 Comment

  1. This is beutiful. And I understand this sort of conversation all too well. You are a great mom and I love that you write about important topics. Xx

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