Posts by Jen Lumanlan

070: Why isn’t my child grateful?

“I spent the whole morning painting and doing origami and felting projects with my daughter – and not only did she not say “thank you,” but she refused to help clean up!” (I actually said this myself this morning:-))

“We took our son to Disneyland and went on every ride he wanted to go on except one, which was closed, and he spent the rest of the trip whining about how the whole trip was ruined because he didn’t get to go on that one ride.” (I hope I never have to say this one…I’m not sure I could make it through Disneyland in one piece.)

You might recall that we did an episode a while back on manners, and what the research says about teaching manners, and how what the research says about teaching manners comes from the assumption that manners MUST be explicitly taught – that your child will NOT learn to say “thank you” unless you tell your child “say thank you” every time someone gives them a gift.

We also talked about how parent educator Robin Einzig uses the concept of “modeling graciousness” and that if you treat other people graciously, when your child is ready, she will be gracious as well.  The problem here, of course, is that most people expect your child to display some kind of manners before they are developmentally ready to really understand the concept behind it.

But what really underlies manners?  Well, ideas like gratitude.  Because when we train children to say “thank you” before they are ready to do it themselves they might learn to recite the words at the appropriate time, but they aren’t really experiencing gratitude.

Dr. Jonathan Tudge of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro tells us much more about this, and how we can scaffold our child’s ability to experience gratitude, if we decide we might want to do that.

Dr. Tudge’s book, Developing Gratitude in Children and Adolescents (co-edited with Dr. Lia B. L. Freitas) contains lots more academic research on this topic if you’re interested.


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An age-by-age guide to teaching your child to share


Toddler 1: “Nooooooo, it’s mine!”

Toddler 2: “I want it!”

How many parents have ever heard that scenario?

(I’d be surprised if any of you haven’t.)

And how many parents are sick of hearing it?

(I’d be surprised if any of you who have more than one child aren’t…)


Young children find sharing difficult!

We know that children develop the mental skills needed to engage in sharing behavior over time, and yet we find ourselves in a pickle over sharing all the time.  Our own children take things from each other.  Our child takes something from another child at preschool.  Someone else’s child takes something from our child at the park.

When it’s just our own children at home, we might just step in and say: “Well if you can’t stop fighting over it, I’m just going to take it away so neither of you can have it.”  In a public place, we immediately find ourselves getting hot and anxious not because of the children, but because of what the adults around us will think of our children – and, by extension, our parenting.

Being judged is hard, right?

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069: Reducing the impact of intergenerational trauma

Ever get red-hot angry at your child for no reason, or out of proportion to the incident that provoked it?  Have you wondered why this happens?

The way we were parented has a profound impact on us – it’s pretty easy to ‘fall into’ parenting the way you were parented yourself unless you specifically examine your relationship with your parent(s) and how it impacts the way you parent your own child.  This can be great if you have a positive relationship with your parents, but for those of us with less-than-amazing relationships with our parents, trauma can impact more of our parenting that we might like.

Join me for a conversation with Dr. Rebecca Babcock-Fenerci from Stonehill College in Massachusetts, who researches the cognitive and interpersonal consequences of child maltreatment, with the goal of understanding factors that can increase risk for or protect against the transmission of abuse and neglect from parents to their children.

Even if you were not abused or neglected as a child, you may find that aspects of the way you were parented have left you with unresolved trauma that you could pass on to your child if it remains unaddressed.  Dr. Fenerci helps us to examine some of the ways we can recognize the impact of this trauma on ourselves, and reduce the possibility that we will transmit it to our child.

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068: Do I HAVE to pretend play with my child?

Pretty regularly I see posts in online parenting groups saying “My child loves to pretend, and they always want me to participate.  I dare not tell anyone else, but I CAN’T STAND PRETEND PLAY.  What should I do?”

In this final (unless something else catches my interest!) episode in our extended series on play, Dr. Ansley Gilpin of the University of Alabama helps us to do a deep dive into what children learn from pretend play, and specifically what they learn from fantasy play, which is pretend play regarding things that could not happen in real life (like making popcorn on Mars).

We’ll discuss the connection between fantasy play and children’s executive function, the problems with studying fantasy play, and the thing you’ve been waiting for: do you HAVE to do fantasy play with your child if you just can’t stand it (and what to do instead!)

If you missed other episodes in this series, you might want to check them out: we started out asking “what is the value of play?”, then we looked at the benefits of outdoor play and talked with Dr. Scott Sampson about his book How to Raise a Wild Child.  We wrapped up with outdoor play by trying to understand whether we should allow our children to take more risks.

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Why isn’t my child grateful?


Ever been in any of these scenarios?

“I took my children on a fantastic vacation to Disney World.  My youngest ate it up but my five-year-old pouted the whole time.  The lines were too long; the weather was too hot; the food sucked.  Why can’t he appreciate the sacrifices we make for him?  It’s not like us parents want to go to Disney World…”

“My mom gave my three-year-old daughter a beautiful and expensive doll for her birthday.  My daughter doesn’t really like dolls, and when she realized what the gift was she threw it aside and went to play with her Legos.  My mom was really hurt, and I was mortified.  Why can’t my daughter just be thankful for a gift even if it’s not exactly what she wanted?”

“My five-year-old has it so easy.  We buy him toys; we pick up after him; we go out for treats (ice cream and the like) all the time.  He really wants for nothing, but he’s so ungrateful.  He has absolutely no idea how good he has it, and that there are people in the world with so much less than him.  What can I do about this?”

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