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8 Ways to Teach Children Thankfulness
…Instead of Taking Everything for Granted
Do you have children who you feel are a little unappreciative and need a little help as we head into this month of thanks?
Or, are your children perfect little angels who always appreciate every little thing you do and have outstanding manners?
(If you’re children are the second type, please tell me how you do it. Actually, leave it in the comments so we can all know! We would all be thankful for that!)
If you’re like me, you probably struggle with your kids being thankful, at least for the most part.
Maybe this is why Thanksgiving is the month before Christmas and not the month after; so we can teach our kids what it means to be thankful before they tear open their Christmas presents without a care in the world. If only this lesson stayed with them longer…
Teach it in a Way to Make it Stick
Well, maybe we can make it stick. It all depends on how it’s taught and how many times we attempt to teach them, right?
Have you ever heard before that it takes so many repetitions of learning something before it actually sticks?
Or, that people learn in different ways?
This is true with children as well.
In order to get through this crazy thing that’s called life, with our kids and our sanity in tack; we need to know this and understand it.
We can’t expect our children to remember to do something, or behave in a certain way, after we tell them once. It takes repetition.
If you’re a parent of any child over 18 months, I’m sure you already know this. My 2 year old has been extremely testy lately. Thinking she can get away with everything and anything, including jumping on the couch.
We can’t expect our children to learn something from us, by us simply telling them, then turning around and not doing it ourselves. They may not learn well that way.
You could try asking them questions about what you just asked them to see if they understand, but they may not be old enough. And, it doesn’t always confirm they understand, they may have just memorized what you said.
For children, it’s best to teach by example. You can teach your child by example at any stage in life.
You are their role model; they look up to you (even when they say they hate you and want to be left alone- words from my 5 year old). Your children also think that you are the best person in the world; they trust your judgment and want to copy you.
They may even want to copy everything you do or say, so be careful how you are around them.
Alright, so now that I gave away some of the how to’s on teaching children, let’s get into the specifics of teaching our little ones to be thankful.
1. Start with the basics
You were taught this when you were little. Have them say ‘please’, ‘thank you’, and ‘you’re welcome’. This is a very basic way to teach them thanks.
They may not even understand why they are saying these words when just learning to speak; but at least you’re helping them start this habit. They’ll learn eventually what the meaning behind the words are. And, by that time, hopefully they will truly mean them.
If your child is more than a couple years old, you’ll probably want them to be more grateful for things and ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ won’t be enough; you want them to actually appreciate them, as well.
2. Appreciate what you have
I’m talking to you, not your children this time.
Children copy what they see.
So, if they see you going around complaining about what you have and never really appreciating all the wonderful things that you do have in your life; how are they supposed to?
When your children are too young to be in school you are their teacher! This comes with a big responsibility; you need to act how you want them to act. You need to talk how you want them to talk.
Complaining and being unappreciative pretty much gives them permission to do the same. Which may be why people say that if mom isn’t happy then no one is.
Our kids can pick up on these cues and then mimic them, without even realizing it. (Or, maybe they do.)
So, make sure you talk in a positive manner about what you have; don’t complain. Do this when your kids are around, and even when they are not. This won’t only help them feel more thankful, but you as well, for what you have in life.
Appreciate what you do have, instead of complaining about what you don’t have!
3. Remind them to be Thankful
Because we all forget sometimes.
Remind them about the toys they have, their family, and how fortunate they are to have everything that they do have. Explain to them that not everyone is able to have things like they do.
If they don’t believe that they have enough things, or they just don’t care about what they have; you could always try the method of taking their toys away.
Then, they may appreciate their toys more when they get them back.
Kids these days have so many toys to begin with. This toy issue can cause overwhelm in kids, just as a messy or unorganized home can cause overwhelm for a stay at home mom. So, maybe the best thing for them to appreciate what they have more is to put most of their toys out of sight. This way they can actually play with what they have and enjoy them more. More on teaching minimalism below.
4. Provide them with practice
You don’t have to wait til Christmas or their birthday to give them practice being thankful. You can do this on an everyday basis if you’d like.
Do something nice for them. Make their favorite meal. Play with them. Cuddle them. Read to them. If you have the means, buy something small for them while out once in awhile.
All of those things mean something to them and they should appreciate them in one way or another.
Show them how to be thankful for each of them.
Saying thank you is a nice start.
Tell them how much you enjoyed doing these things for them, and in time they may genuinely say and feel the same way.
If we do this right, they’ll start doing nice things for others and appreciate the fact that they are capable of doing so.
5. Let them know you appreciate them
Sometimes the best thing we can do to teach our children is to show them.
Show them that you are thankful you have them; that they can be thankful for more than just stuff. If you only ever talk about stuff and how you love this or that, but you ignore the fact that you have amazing people around you; then you’re missing out on a lot, including a teaching opportunity.
Tell them how much they mean to you and how much you love them. Let them know how your life is so much better with them and because of them. They have feelings like we do. Wouldn’t it make you feel good to hear someone tell you all of this great stuff about you?
Spread around the positivity and keep love and kindness in your home so your children can spread positivity to all they know as well.
Life runs so much smoother when you show appreciation for people and not just things. It keeps you happy and makes others happy. This is something your child will pick up on and want to do themselves, as well (in time).
6. Teach them about minimalism on a level they understand
Show them how less can be more (or better).
Teach them the difference between a want and a need. They may stop taking things for granted or always wanting more. Show this by example. Don’t constantly be talking about things you want or wish you had.
Show them how to appreciate things you already have and think outside the box on how to use them. Show them how to avoid functional fixedness. Ask them how they can use an item.
For example; kids love boxes!
Because they can use it for so many different things. Recently, my older daughter has been using old diaper boxes for her baby dolls. She has a few for cribs, one for a bathtub. She’s only five, so she has a huge imagination; I don’t want that to ever change for her.
There are other people in this world who have functional fixedness (I’m not going to name who- but they are generally adults).
They believe that an item is only useful for it’s intended purpose and can’t be used for anything else.
For example, to go back to those diaper boxes; when first buying them you need to open them. People with functional fixedness; they need scissors or a knife to open it (because they can’t rip it open). Now, say they don’t have either of those, all they have is a pen; they believe it’s impossible to do it. For someone who does not have functional fixedness, they’ll find a way to use the pen to open the box. (This is how I actually open diaper boxes, I can never seem to find scissors or a knife when I need one.)
Teach them to use what they have and that having more is not better, even if society tells us it is. This can help them be more thankful towards what they already have because now they know that it’s more valuable than at a first glance.
7. Ask them questions
What better way to teach, than to ask them questions.
Find out how they already feel about things to gauge what they have yet to learn and what thoughts they have that need reshaping. Plus, kids love attention, so if you give them attention by asking them questions they may enjoy answering them. This truly depends on the child and they’re age.
I can tell my 5 year loves it when I ask her questions; she takes her time to think about it and then gets all excited to tell me her answer, especially if I ask a silly question. If you have teenagers; don’t expect the same results.
You could ask them simple questions about what they like or enjoy and why. Or, ask them what life would be like without something; this may really get them thinking and appreciating that they have what they do in life.
Ask them to think about what it would be like to be someone else; have them think from another persons perspective if they’re old enough. And, you may want to write down some of their answers so you both can refer back to them. It can be hilarious what types of answers kids come up with.
8. Teach and watch them grow
You know, there’s something wonderful about hearing a child tell you that their birthday this year is the best year ever. Even when this year they didn’t get as many toys as they did in the past. It’s a nice feeling to know that your child is actually starting to appreciate things in life.
You know, when my older daughter turned 5 last year, that was exactly how she was.
Even though this was the first year we have lived away from family during her birthday, and she didn’t have a party; just a cake, her parents and sister, and a few presents. She made it quite clear how much she appreciated spending the day with us and how happy and grateful she was that day.
This comes from letting her say what’s on her mind (not that I can stop her) and teaching her to make the most of what she has.
Sometimes you just have to let them be; grow and mature into the person they want to be and hope for the best. And, hope that everything you teach them eventually sticks with them.
Getting Children to Remember to be Thankful is Not Easy
…but is so totally worth it.
Take some time and think about what you can personally do to help your child remember. No two children are alike with how they learn and how they remember, so what works for me and my children may not work for you and yours.
Honestly, what works for my older child may not work for my younger child.
I hope no one ever lied to you and told you that caring for and raising children was easy. Because it’s not.
Just because you’re not being compensated with money, doesn’t mean it’s not a hard job. Being a parent your job is never ending, working long hours and being on call 24/7 (literally). You still get compensated, with hugs and kisses and cuddles (if your child is in the right mood), but not with money.
The best you can do to help your children remember thanks is to know them.
Start with the basics and teach them ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ when they’re learning to talk.
Be the example you want to see in them.
Be positive and don’t complain (alright, I may be talking to myself right now, because I need to hear this- my husband would agree).
Give them grace and simply remind them to be thankful.
Be thankful for them first.
Remember, and teach them, how less can be more.
Be curious about their thoughts.
And, let them grow into the wonderful person that they are.
Leave any thoughts or comments below, and keep working with your child to be the best they can; it’s not always easy but will be worth it.
If you want more ways to incorporate lessons from Holidays through out the year into everyday life; check out 13 Halloween Safety Tips to Teach Year Round
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