For three little kids, the Grinch has just stolen Christmas. And the Grinch? It’s their Mum.
Fed up with her family seeming ungrateful, Utah mum Lisa Henderson decided to cancel presents and Christmas festivities.
Is there a parent alive who hasn’t at least flirted with the idea of doing this? Anyone who’s ever been on the receiving end of a child’s ingratitude knows that one of the most infuriating things about it is their lack of awareness of just how good they’ve got it.
But while it is easy for us adults to push for gratitude in the midst of plenty, imagine for a moment what it’s like from our children’s point of view. Compared to any previous time in history, children in the developed world are growing up with far more stuff to want, far more channels by which that stuff is marketed and advertised to them, and more disposable income or credit cards in our wallets with which to buy that stuff. Only a few generations ago, at Christmas a child might have been delighted to get a stocking filled with fruits, nuts, sweets, and trinkets.
Compare that to the vast array of toys, electronics, music, shoes, makeup, clothes, and so on children are now convinced they need. Oxygen, water, food, shelter, love—these are what we really need. But thanks to sophisticated marketing and advertising, celebrity endorsements, and children’s strong and valid urge to fit in, high-price consumer goods can seem essential to survival.
“You can not screw up talking to Santa, you can not miss any item on that list because that is years and years of hearing about it and probably therapy.” Katie Holmes talks about 8-year-old Suri’s “very organised” Christmas list.
Even when children do receive the things they want, it doesn’t necessarily make them happy, because they are living in a state called the “abundance paradox.”
Sociologist Christine Carter, of the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley, puts it this way: “Their disappointment when they don’t get what they want is greater than their gratitude when they do get what they want.”
This is because gratitude comes much more easily in times of scarcity. Carter uses the example of a child growing up in a home where there isn’t enough to eat. That child is likely to be more grateful and less picky about the food that is on his or her plate compared to a child whose fridge is full of goodies.