Teaching Children to be Thankful

TEACHING CHILDREN TO BE THANKFULIt is the time of year that we find ourselves focused on all things “Thanksgiving.”  We see cute turkey crafts, favorite recipes, cornucopia décor and leaf shaped napkin rings.  However, we sometimes forget to provide our children with experiences that teach them to be truly thankful. 

  1. As with most important lessons, it is necessary to be a good role model for children.  Children learn what they live. Thank your child when they do something helpful. Let them see you thank your spouse, your friends and family, servers in a restaurant, and the checker at the grocery store.
  2. Ask your child to say “thank you” specifically.  When given a snack, rather than just “thanks,” encourage your child to say “thank you for the cookie.”  This helps them escape the mindless mumble of the word and think truly about what they are expressing gratitude about.  Many households pray as a family. Encourage this child to participate in this with you.
  3. Make the “little things” big.  Share your joy in the sparkle of frost on the trees or the smell of supper on the stove.  Talk about how glad you are to have a home to live in or a safe community. You may just find yourself feeling happier with life as you work to help your child notice the ordinary with grateful eyes.  Talk each day as a family about the best things in your day, even if the best part of a bad day at school was getting to come home.  We need to slow down to make time to notice the little things.
  4. Expect your child to participate in household chores and projects without reward. Allowance is fine but kids need to also appreciate that everyone in a family works together to make every day work.  Mom and dad don’t get paid to make supper and kids don’t need to get paid to set the table. We can all appreciate one another for the way we contribute to the family.
  5. Say “no” sometimes. Our children battle a generation plagued with entitlement.  Some kids expect the newest fashion, the latest technology and the coolest toys.  They expect them the moment their heart desires them.  As parents, we so don’t want to disappoint our children and sometimes we have the means to meet their wishes.  However, occasional disappointment builds character and resiliency.  Help your child to understand that life doesn’t always go our way.  Encourage them to be positive in difficult situations. If they can’t play outside because of a rainy day, remind them that plants and flowers need water. When you tell them they can’t have the candy in the grocery store checkout, remind them that the grapes you have at home will be a healthier snack.  They may not behave well in the moment, but these are the lessons that last.
  6. Encourage giving by finding specific opportunities for your child to give of what they have. Lead them to use their time to make gifts for loved ones.  Help them choose gently used toys from their collection to donate.
  7. Celebrate with service by finding opportunities in your community for your child and family to make a difference.  Making cards for sick kids in the hospital, door decorations for assisted living facilities, letters to military overseas, etc. are easy ways to bring joy and help your kids remember all they have to be thankful for.

 You have probably already started to instill a sense of gratitude in your child through your day to day parenting. Perhaps this list will help inspire a new idea or two for your family. This is not a task to be relegated to November.  Start today to raise thankful children year round.

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