It's the time of year to stop and take stock of all that we have and all that we are grateful for. With life moving a mile a minute, it is increasingly hard to slow down and appreciate the simple joys in life. Here are some ways to help children practice thankfulness year-round, while teaching them that gratitude goes beyond good manners and just saying “thank you.”
1. Give kids chores
Kids who do chores learn how they can contribute to the family unit, as well as how much work and effort goes into maintaining the home in which they live. Children rarely give much thought to how their dinner gets to the table or how their laundry gets back to their closets. Sharing household responsibilities gives kids a sense of pride and can go a long way in curbing entitlement.
2. Let them work for something
Chances are your child wants everything they see at the store. When you say no, they may not understand why. Money is a difficult concept to grasp, especially for young children.
The next time your child asks for something, come up with a plan to help them work and save for the item. This exercise will help them understand the time and effort it takes to get something they want. By working for something, they will appreciate it more and be proud of themselves for the accomplishment.
3. Write thank-you cards
In the world of quick text messages, handwritten thank-you cards are a dying art. Writing a thank-you card shows that you took your time to express gratitude just as the sender took the time to pick out and mail a gift to you. When you discuss thank-you cards with your kids, frame it as a way to communicate appreciation, not a chore that must be checked off their list.
4. Discuss their day and find the silver lining
Take the time to talk with your kids about their day. At first, you may be surprised by what events stand out to them. More often than not they will focus on the boy who stepped on their toes or the girl who wouldn’t share the swing.
As parents, it is our responsibility to refocus our kids and show them that life is about perspective not circumstance. When your child tells you about their terrible day, redirect the narrative to the positives they may have overlooked. Changing their perspective is an important step to raising strong, resilient kids.
5. Help them understand how fortunate they are
Be open and honest about those who are less fortunate. It's understandable to want to shield children from the harsh realities of the world, but keeping them in the dark makes it difficult for them to put their own lives in perspective. Use the discussion as an opportunity to encourage empathy and foster altruism. Once they are aware that not everyone has the same privileges, they can begin to develop compassion for others and gratitude for what they have.
6. Be the example
Kids learn first and foremost from their parents. Just as it is essential to thank others, it is also important to include your kids and thank them as well. Thanking your kids for a job well done reinforces the behavior and gives them a firsthand example of what gratitude really looks like.
Gratitude starts at home and expressing thankfulness should not be reserved for one day out of the year. Setting a positive example and teaching your kids how to show appreciation will put them on the path to becoming kind and compassionate adults.