Teaching Kids Gratitude
One big thing that my husband and I have in common is that we want to raise grateful children. We each have such gratitude for our life – our healthy, thriving children and each other, a place to call home, constant food in the fridge, clothes for ourselves and our growing girls, our education, our jobs, and so much more. We have everything that we need and often what we want. It’s important to us that our girls understand how much they have to be thankful for.
But, it sometimes feels like an uphill battle in today’s world where we are all bombarded with the message to have more, get more, you need more, you deserve more.
So we’ve tried to nail the basics and then deal with things as they come up. What are the basics for us?
Everyday Ways to Instill Gratitude
The simplest thing we do is thank each other. My husband and I started doing this early as a couple and as such have modeled it to our girls for their whole lives. We say thank you, and mean it any time someone does anything for us. While there are times it’s an automatic response and doesn’t feel genuine, there are other times when their whole being shows that they are thankful for what was just given to them. Just yesterday, I brought Hannah a snack that she hadn’t asked for and she gave me an enthusiastic “thank-you Momma!” with eye contact and a smile. Little wins.
We also do not shy away from talking about how much we have and how so many others do not. We don’t pretend not to see those less fortunate or avoid difficult questions about privilege and all the forms it takes. Some of the concepts are complicated, so whenever possible, we keep it to something they can understand. For example, when it is cold outside we make a point to say how thankful we are to have a warm house.
For the several years when I stayed home with the girls, money was much tighter and we got very clear in our house about needs vs. wants. Now that I’m back working outside the house, we’re still talking about it – just because you can afford something, doesn’t mean you need it. This is where birthdays and Christmas comes in. If you need new clothes because you’ve outgrown them we will go shopping. If you want new clothes because you’re bored with your options, you’ll get some for your birthday.
If the girls want something and their birthday or Christmas is months away, we do encourage them to “work for it.” We believe that working for something not only shows them what hard work can bring, but also makes them more grateful for whatever they purchased. Fiona was desperate for an American Girl Doll and her birthday was eight months away (basically an eternity for an 8-year-old). We made a deal that if she earned half the money, we would kick-in the other half. She worked almost daily for 2.5 months with that goal in mind. And when we walked out of the store, she was full of pride – in herself and her accomplishment. And she was so thankful that we made the deal with her.
Raising grateful children, like so many parenting goals is a work in progress. Some days we feel like they understand and other days they are demanding and seemingly oblivious to how good their lives are. But it is so important to us and so we try to work at it every day.
What are some simple ways you’re teaching your child gratitude?
I am many things to many people, but my favorite role of all, is as mom to my two girls, ages 8.5 and 3. I have pendulum swung between being a work-aholic mom and a stay-at-home mom and am currently trying to find the right balance of both worlds one day at a time. I’m pretty good at not sweating the small stuff and use the quote “Be silly. Be honest. Be kind.” from Ralph Waldo Emerson to guide me through life.
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