With Thanksgiving coming up this Thursday in the United States, now is a good time to talk about gratitude and giving thanks!
Gratitude is a feeling of appreciation or thanks. (Source: Webster’s dictionary.)
The question we face as adults is, how do we develop the feeling of gratitude with our kids so that it becomes a habit?
Feelings are at the core of gratitude and being thankful. The question is: what is the key to open up these feelings? One of the answers is within the leadership role of the parents. They should help kids recognize the value of the things they have received or have already achieved. To reach to the inner core of the child is to ask them and open a conversation with him or her. Ask your child how he/she felt when someone did something nice for them. Help him/her express his/her feelings. An important way to develop learning is by using examples. You can give your child an example and ask them how they feel about that situation. “I made you pancakes for breakfast today and you really liked them, right? Did that make you feel happy, good, or excited?” In response to that feeling, let your child know that it’s nice that they respond to that situation by expressing their thanks.
We should teach kids being thankful shouldn’t only be in exciting situations. For example, Uncle John visited us and brought you a gift, what do you tell Uncle John after you received the gift? The child should learn to respond with: “Thank you Uncle John for the gift,” regardless if he/she liked the gift or not. You need to explain to your child that we thank Uncle John because he thought about us ahead of time and invested some time and money in buying the gift.
You might teach your children that it’s good to be specific about what they are saying thank you for, or what they liked or appreciated.
Examples- “I love pancakes, I’m so glad you made them for breakfast today!”
“Thanks for the snack, I was hungry.” “Thanks for the hug, it makes me feel happy!”
It might not be trendy these days, but another way kids can show they are thankful is to respond by writing a thank you card. Whenever your children receive a gift, make sure they make a thank you card for the person that gave them the gift. The youngest kids might not be able to write words yet, but they could draw a picture and dictate to you what they want it to say. Even toddlers can draw a few lines or scribbles with crayons. If you have some finger paint, having them make their hand print would be a fun way to say thanks too. As they get older, they can write in more detail what they liked about their gift. The gift giver and your child will both feel good. Writing the card can create a tangible connection between the sender and the receiver.
Remember not to give in to your child on everything. It’s ok to say no. It really is! This is important! If you give your children every single thing they want, it leaves them little to no room to appreciate anything. They will come to expect everything will be handed to them. Children need to understand that when their parents say no, there’s a good reason for it. This will help them at school also. (Yes, teachers will have to tell your kids no on occasion!) When you are able to say yes to an extra treat or toy they will be much more excited and appreciative. Let your kids earn those special things they want through doing chores. This is what my father had my brother and I do. At the time I thought this wasn’t fair because all my friends had what they wanted, and they didn’t have to earn it themselves in most cases. But now as an adult, I really appreciate the responsibility my Dad taught us. (Thanks Dad!)
Helping kids to realize the value of the things they own ( received as gift or bought for them ) is an important factor that will last with them towards adulthood.
Have them give to others. Your children will feel good by helping others in need. Have them go through their closet to find clothes that they don’t wear or that don’t fit them anymore. They could find a few toys they don’t use anymore as well. Donate them to a local charity, such as the Salvation Army. Talk to them about people less fortunate than them. This will help them to see how fortunate they are to have the things that they have.
Before I end this post, I want to emphasize on the things that have no monetary value to the kids directly ( even though it might have value to the parents ) such as the home, furniture, clothes, the family, school, good health, and the value of life itself. We can’t put a price tag on the value of family. These things that some take for granted in life, others might wish they had. We should appreciate having these things in front of the kids. This will be a major factor in shaping their personality when they move towards being independent adults. As I have mentioned in one of my preivious posts, our kids are watching us! (Click here to read more.) We need to be role models for our children. So it’s important to make sure you are doing some of the above mentioned things to show your gratitude too.
I would like to wish all of you a Happy Thanksgiving!
And until next time, remember, our words really do matter!!
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