Raising Grateful Children in 6 Not So Easy Steps
In a world that’s focused on the “me”, it can be difficult to get our children to see past the end of their noses. “What do I get out of it?” “How does that benefit me?” “I want that!” “His is better than mine!” “Me, Me, ME!” How in the world can we break this cycle and teach our children to realize the extent to which they are blessed, and be thankful for it? How can we help cultivate them into grateful people who are willing to be generous with others?
As a mother, I often wonder if I am doing things correctly. Am I setting the proper example for my children? Will they learn the things that I am trying to teach them when sometimes the world is teaching them differently? I want my children to grow in grace and gratitude. While I want them to have nice things, I want them to understand the difference between a need and a want. I want them to be thankful for the thinks that they have instead of expecting something better just because it is available in the store. I don’t want them to be selfish or stingy, but rather humble and kind.
So, I am taking these steps to try to show them the behavior that I want them to learn. Will it work in the end? I sure hope so! Ask me again when they are grown and I’ll let you know.
Say “Thank You”
This is such a simple thing, I realize that. It is however, a crucial step. It is important for children to realize that displaying gratitude is a big deal. This can be as simple as saying thanks for passing the butter at the dinner table, or a grand gesture like making cookies that they deliver to the fire station to say thank you to the fire fighters who put their lives in danger for the safety of others. Being able to say thanks, and knowing when and how to do it properly, will help them keep on the lookout for when others do something for them. Which will, in turn, hopefully, create in them a heart that has a desire to do for others as well.
Count Your Blessings
Realizing how much you have been blessed helps put things into prospective. While you may not have the fanciest of cars, at least you have something to transport you from point A to point B. Not everyone has that luxury. You have a roof over your head, food on your table and a bed to sleep in, and these are true blessings – even if in the mind of your child, they need more.
Perhaps each night at dinner you could go around the table and say something good that happened that day that you’re thankful for. Or maybe you create a Gratitude Jar, where you write on a slip something you’re grateful for and then read them all on New Year’s Eve as a family to remember all the good things that happened in the year. Realizing that you’ve been given so much, can help eliminate some of the desire to have more.
Give to others
Being able to help those who are less fortunate can create a heart of compassion. Whether you are giving of your time, your finances or your belongings, its the words spoken to a child that can start that fire down in their soul. Perhaps go through your child’s toys with them. Donate them to a child who doesn’t have much for Christmas through a local toy drive. Let them pick out a couple cans that they could donate to the food drive. These will help families at the food pantry who might not be able to afford their own food. Look and see if there are any volunteer opportunities for children in your area so that they have a chance to work – to donate their time and energy – on a project for the community, like a community garden. Thinking about other people and their needs gets a person’s mind off of their life and what they
need want and moves it to what they can give or do for others.
Look for the silver lining
The rollercoaster of life has its ups and downs. There will be times when the struggles hit, and your child is upset – sometimes justifiably and sometimes not. Remember to point them towards the silver lining. Sometimes it is easy to see, and sometimes you have to really search for it, but it is always there. Being able to see the good, even in a bad situation is a real gift.
Yes, you might have broken your firetruck, but at least you still have your police car to play with. No, it’s not the same, but you are not without toys. It might not be the one you wanted to play with right this moment. I understand how hard it is not to get what we want, but at least you have something to play with still.
Will this always go smoothly? No. Of course not. But if done with consistent repetition, the goal is that they will grow up to be able to see the bright side themselves and be thankful for that.
Have the kids help
When you have to do something yourself, you have a greater appreciation for it. Understanding how hard something is to create, or exactly how much money something costs, will help children realize what was given for them to have it. If there is a big toy purchase that your child wants to make, have them work for it. Set realistic goals for them to do – whether it be chores or behavior – and keep track of their progress, where they can see.
For example, if they want a Hatchimal, have them do 60 nice things to earn it (one for each dollar it costs). Keep a chart on the kitchen wall where they can record their good deeds and see how they are progressing toward their goal. They will understand more what a big deal the Hatchimal is when they have worked so hard to obtain it. A big deal can be made over all the wonderful things accomplished, as well as their determination to finish their challenge. The toy is just a side benefit – look at all the good you’ve done!
This concept can also be applied to housework. Many times children, even the big ones **cough husbands cough**, don’t realize just how much work we put into keeping the house running smoothly. Being responsible for a portion of it, ie. chores, creates a sense of thankfulness for all that is done, as well as a good work ethic in doing it. Setting age appropriate chores is important, but you’d be surprised at just how much a child can do if they want to. Yes, it might take longer. It might not be done exactly the way that you would have done it. But by
requiring allowing your children to help with the house, you are instilling in them qualities that last forever.
Set a good example
You are your child’s first role model. You are the first chance to display the qualities that you want your children to possess. When we are being grateful, it shows our children how important it is. Their little eyes are watching us, even though we may not realize it. So say thank you. Live happily with what you have instead of always talking about the things that you want instead. Donate of your time, finances, things when you can. Help those around you whom you can. Be the person that you want your children to become!
I can’t guarantee that if you follow these steps that your children will be angels. In our house, I do my best to follow these. Somedays I see that they’re working. Other days, I scratch my head and wonder if my kids will ever understand the concept. But, I won’t give up and neither should you! Let’s keep on together, doing what we can to be the best parents that we can be. Our kids will thank us someday.
What have you tried to help your kids be more grateful?
I would love to hear what has worked, or hasn’t, in your life!
Share your experiences in the comments below.