Attitude of Gratitude

Competent, ethical college admissions counselors wear any number of hats including but not limited to the following:

Coach Chapeau: "C'mon, you! Three more essays! You can DO this! Let's go!"

Mortician Millinery: "I'm sorry your dream of attending North Cornstalk State has passed away..."

Balloon Popper Bowler: "No, that your mother's cousin's ex-wife's neighbor's father-in-law is an alum of Highly Selective College does not improve your chances of admission."

Life Saver Sobrero: "You hate math and got a C in algebra as a senior but are only applying to MIT, Cal Tech, and Worchester Polytechnic Institute. Could we talk a little more about your passion for literature and some other schools?"

And of course, Erudite Editor, Proof Reader Extraordinaire.

Chatting recently with Anna about her brilliant, insightful, thoughtful admissions essay, I suggested she consider replacing a coordinating conjunction in the third paragraph with a semicolon.

"A semicolon!" she replied rapturously. "What a great idea!"

Anna's mom, chimed in. "A semicolon fits perfectly! Thank you so much!"

Had I taken a bullet for you in wartime then donated all my organs to your daughter, you could not have been as gracious and grateful as Anna and her mom.

In another office across town, a colleague is trying to untangle the twisted logic and fragment sentences of an applicant's hastily scrawled, hand-written paragraph. "There are some good ideas here," the counselor begins cautiously, "but I wonder if this draft represents your best work."

The child, suffering from a particularly acute bout of affluenza and entitle-isis responds snarkily: "I wanted these applications submitted last week."

His mother jumps on. "We paid you a lot of money. I thought you were going to help us with the essays."

The counselor doesn't know where to begin to respond. "It is unethical to write essays for applicants." "Your son will be taking English composition in college next year; it is important that he have some skills." "It is against every ethical tenet of my profession to write essays rather than edit them." Before he can formulate an appropriate answer, the mom summarily fires him, takes her son, and leaves--presumably to buy admissions essays from a slimy counselor elsewhere.

How do loving parents engender an "attitude of gratitude" rather than the insolence of "Buy me; get me; I want it now"? How do we encourage our kids to exude appreciation over a semi-colon rather than whimper about their wants?

Note that complaints are loudest from those who are farthest from benefitting from good advice.

"Can I buy a house in your neighborhood? I can afford $40,00."

"Unfortunately not," replies the knowledgeable realtor. "Homes there go for an average of $700,000."

"Then you are an incompetent professional, I hate you, and I will devote my life to trashing your reputation," replies the disappointed would-be buyer.

That there are differences between students applying to college is an observation that I am hardly the first to point out. WHY these two children are so spectacularly disparate is worth considering. Yes, their skills are different: the good writer is grateful; the poor applicant is grouchy and unrealistic.

"From an apple tree, you don't get pears." Do grateful parents bring up grateful children? Are skillful children more likely to be appreciative? Or are there other factors at play? Are there examples of children with modest skills who are grateful for help? Are there brilliant, motivated children who are not appreciative?

I would be interested in hearing your thoughts.

Before I go back to trying on more hats and helping students with their admissions essays.

4 thoughts on “Attitude of Gratitude

  1. Dr

    I’m not sure if we have scientific research to back up your position; but I agree wholeheartedly that parents must teach and model an attitude of gratitude. I appreciate the work you are doing with our students to help them reach their full potential. I empathize with you as a former high school principal for all the patience and expertise needed to work with parents. As a parent of adult sons I can attest to the need for the “Village” to lift up both parents and students. The Affluenza parent and child have been center stage in National News and we all have seen the consequences. Your article gives a “simple” but not “simplistic” look at the importance of competent, caring counselors and attentive parents and youth. Stay in the fight!
    Dr. Val

  2. Gina Prinzavalli

    The attitudes and behaviors of the parents, i believe, greatly influence the attitudes and behaviors of the child. Doing homework or science fair projects or any project for a child is wrong and is teaching them to use others to get what they want. Parents, in an effort to “help” their kids, have destroyed their sense of accomplishment which comes out as nastiness and self involvement and wanting more, more, more.

    But most importantly, I firmly believe, and have seen it play out in real life, that the more the family and the kids themselves are in service to others as they are growing up, the more grateful and respectful they are of all things. Although a child who is brought up to be grateful and respectful may go through a period of the “uglies” where they are less than grateful or respectful, i believe the gratitude and respect is there and will resurface.

    Once a child or young teen has seen how others live, what others DON’T have, what others have to go through just to get through a day and find enough money to eat or to buy soap and toothpaste, the more grateful they become of what they DO have.

    I don’t blame children for this…the parents are the issue…(in my humble opinion).

  3. Martin

    Only thing I would change is one word in the last full paragraph to:
    “From an apple tree you don’t get bananas.” Since, with a good graft,
    you could get pears on an apple tree 🙂 and, by analogy, with good tutoring
    a kid could (unlikely though it may be) change. Although we don’t have
    formal institutions to make that happen, affluenza can be washed out. It
    takes about 20 years, though.

  4. Kim Stephens

    Hi David,

    Thank you so much for your Tuesday triumphs and thoughts. Having an attitude of gratitude is one of the most important things we can teach our children and youth today. We are a country that has more than enough. When my husband and I are out shopping and we see something we even think we like, he will say, “where would you put it?” We have more than we need.
    Our youth, and even most of us as adults, seek entertainment to entertain us. We expect everything to be done for us. We should seek to create our own entertainment and exchanges. We can be grateful for so much that we don’t even need. A quote that I have always loved is, “You can never be satisfied with what you don’t need because what you don’t need will never satisfy you” Heber J. Grant.

    I was just talking with my husband about having a blessing basket that we daily put a note of gratitude that we have for that day in it. We need to recognize what we can be grateful for. If we would all look more for what we can be thankful for instead of what we don’t have, we would be a much happier people.


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