With the holidays approaching and Thanksgiving right around the corner, this is a great time to teach our children how to be thankful. When I first became a parent, I thought my child would learn with ease how to not only say “thank you” but also be thankful. Ahem…I have to say, it didn’t seem to come as easy as I thought it should. When I began to hear myself repeating “Say, thank you” or “What do we say?” after someone would give my daughter a gift or do a nice act for her, I started feeling like I was doing something wrong as a parent. “Why do I have to repeat this again?” “Why isn’t she appreciating what others are doing for her?” I felt as if the more she was given, the less appreciative she became. Have you asked yourself these same questions? First off, you are not doing anything wrong. This may shock you, but our children are by nature self-centered. It’s our job to help teach them to be sensitive to the feelings of others. Children need tools not just rules.
So, how do we teach our children to be thankful? It starts with being a role model. Our kids mimic what they hear and see us doing. If we are cognizant of our words and make a point to say “thank you,” our children will do the same. Work gratitude into your daily conversation with your family. They will get used to hearing it, and I promise you, they will pick up on it. It’s also important for your children to see you being thankful and grateful for things in your life. Unfortunately, it can be easy for us to get caught up in the messiness of parenthood. Even in the midst of that messiness, we need to show how grateful we are for each and every moment.
Help your children develop a sense of gratefulness by asking them one thing they are thankful for. You can do this at dinner time or before bed. If they are older, provide them with a journal where they can record their thoughts. Younger children can draw a picture. Get creative and have fun with it. Helping our families have thankful hearts will equip them to have a more positive outlook on life and a sense of caring for others. As your children get older, you can find a goodwill project to do together. There are plenty of opportunities in our community to volunteer. Ask your children to help shop for food donations or have them donate a bag of their clothes to others in need. Some local volunteer opportunities include East Cooper Community Outreach in Mount Pleasant, Low Country Food Bank in Charleston, Good Will Industries- various locations, and many local churches also accept food and clothing donations. Another simple act is writing thank you notes. When your kids receive a gift, insist that they write a thank you card. Younger kids can dictate to you and you can write the note for them. These will not only make the recipient feel good, it will also foster positive feelings in your own child.
Remember that gratitude is not going to happen overnight. It takes practice and patience. It also takes a lot of reinforcement from parents. Your gentle reminders will pay off, and then you will be the one feeling grateful.