November 10, 2018 – Tips and ideas for teaching your child to feel and express gratitude all year round!
As parents, we want our children to not only be able to feel thankful for what they have but to be able to express it also. We’ve seen and heard ungrateful children (often in the malls right after Christmas!) and we know ungrateful children often grow up to be ungrateful adults. These are people you make excuses to not be around for very long. Many adults who complain, who are constantly wanting something (or someone) more or better, who are self-absorbed and greedy were probably ungrateful children, children who never learned how to feel and express gratefulness for what they had. We do not want that for our children.
And the good news is as parents we are our child’s greatest influence. We set the example for how to act, how to speak, how to treat others, and how to believe. If we model thankfulness for what we have, regardless of the amount and regardless of how it compares to another’s blessing, our children are more likely to have that thankfulness as well.
Here are a few ways to encourage your child to recognize the blessings they have, to appreciate them instead of taking them for granted, and to be able to express that thankfulness.
Check YOUR Attitude
For at the least the first ten or so years of their lives we are our children’s role models. We should take this responsibility seriously. We will, ultimately, have a hand in what type of adult our child will grow into. What are we modeling to our children right now? Do they see us unsatisfied or hear us complaining? Are they watching us express dissatisfaction with our home as we envy those with larger, prettier, more expensive homes? Do they hear us express what we wish we had more than they hear us express gratefulness for what we do have? If we have this “more, more” attitude then we’re probably wasting our time trying to teach thankfulness to our children. They will see right through us. If your own attitude is not one of appreciation and gratefulness then you have an assignment to complete before you take on trying to teach your child to feel appreciation and gratefulness: work on yourself first!
Children are selfish by nature. They aren’t born wanting to help others or to share what they have and far too many children grow up to be, yep, adults who are selfish and who do not want to help others. Not a pretty sight. We don’t want that for our kids. We want them to be better. It’s our job to instill this kind of generosity and thoughtfulness in our children. There are some easy, fun ways of doing this:
- Before buying new toys, have your child pick out some of their older toys to take to a shelter or donation center.
- Same with clothing. Let them see you choosing some of your own clothes to donate and ask them to participate.
This not only teaches your child that there are children out there who have much less than they have but also gives your child the chance to feel and express gratitude for what they have.
Help Your Child Have a Bigger Perspective
Children are notoriously self-absorbed. Their own little world is, to them, the only world there is. Help them view their lives in a more global way. This helps them see how much more they may have in terms of homes, clothes, family, etc. than other children in poorer parts of the world. There are age-appropriate shows and DVDs on TV or that can be rented from your library that can show your child how children live in other parts of the world. There are also publications, such as National Geographic Kids, that show your child a much larger view of the world as well.
Practice Thanksgiving Every Day
Talking about being thankful only one day a year is, well, kind of useless. Being thankful should be a daily endeavor. Make sure your family expresses appreciation and thanks to each other and others year round. Teach your child to always say “Thank you” and that being thankful is as important, if not more so, than just saying it.
Put It in Writing
This can be a weekly family activity where each family member writes down one or two or ten things they’re thankful for and why. This can be a list your child keeps that you talk about regularly. This can be writing and sending thank-yous after Christmas or birthdays or just whenever. What all these activities have in common is:
- Writing – we’ve all learned that writing something down helps us to process better, remember easier and for longer, and expressing gratitude helps with feeling it.
- Sharing – sharing our gratitude deepens the feeling and further shapes the attitude, not to mention how it makes others feel to hear a “thank you!”
Cook Something Up
Letting your child help you cook dinner (or lunch or breakfast) teaches them the process of preparing and cooking the food and does it in a fun, memorable way. Even better, talk about where the food came from, how it was bought, what it does in the body. Afterward, have your child help you pack up leftover food to take to a shelter or soup kitchen. This will teach them not only the importance of being thankful for the food but also the importance of sharing what we have with less fortunate people.
We have a great responsibility to teach our kids the lessons they need in order to become good, generous, thankful, considerate people. The life skills they will need all through their life start with us, their parents. This blog focused on gratitude and generosity, helping others, but there are many other life skills we must teach our children:
- Personal Safety
The Game Plan Game is a fun, interactive way of teaching life skills. Research has shown material learned in an enjoyable, active way is retained more thoroughly and for longer periods of time. This game allows you to engage with your child, to play interactively and to teach and learn crucial life skills that they’ll need for the rest of their lives. We’re on Amazon – check us out and order yours today! Christmas is just around the corner!
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