With Thanksgiving not too far away, ever wonder: What can I do to raise a thankful child? With a little effort, and paying attention to simple habits you may already do, you can see results. Consider this interaction:
Christopher’s teacher: “I noticed your son says “thank you” quite often. And he’s sincere as well. Tell me how you’ve encouraged this.”
Christopher’s mom: “Well, mostly we got tired of him not acknowledging or appreciating all of the nice things we did for him. My husband and I were bothered by it until we had to admit that we didn’t often say thank you to each other, either. We realized we weren’t setting a good example, so we made some big changes around the house. Now, my husband always thanks me for his dinner. I thank him for putting gas in my car. We’ve made it sort of a fun game seeing who can thank each other the most for the simple gestures we do for each other. It’s actually made things happier around the house and has improved our relationship!”
Be actively thankful
- “My bed is so comfy. I’m so glad I have a nice bed.”
- “This jacket sure keeps me warm. I really like it.”
- “This is a yummy sandwich. Nice to feel full.”
- “What a great book! So happy I can read to myself and you, too!”
Reinforcing gratefulness is contagious. The more you show how thankful you are, the more your child will learn by example. Look for daily opportunities to express thankfulness. Special times for saying the nice things that happened that day or what you are thankful for could be at the dinner table, riding in the car or before bedtime stories. Look for opportunities to say “thank you” throughout the day to both strangers and people you know. Consideration for others is a life-long trait you can begin to build in your child from early on.
Kids are naturally self-focused. Gradually with your help, they can come to recognize the needs of others, but you have to nurture this awareness.
- Sort through toys and have your child choose some for donation.
- Sort through your closet and add your clothes to the donation.
- Purchase extra food and have your child help you put it in the special bins at the grocery store.
- Purposely buy only a few treats so the family has to “share” rather than each getting their own.
- Assign simple chores, like dusting or folding laundry. Call them “contributions” to the family.
- Provide crafts to make “gifts” so your child experiences gratitude from family and friends.
Kids like stuff. For that matter we do too! But do we really need all of it?
- Set limits with well-wishing relatives on the amount of gifts for a celebration.
- Sometimes it’s okay to just have a party — without gifts!
- Stash some gifts away for another time. All of them at once can be overwhelming.
- “Not today” is a phrase you should feel comfortable with and use as needed.
Habits like these: modeling being thankful throughout the day, finding ways for your kids to be generous and setting limits on material stuff can make a positive difference in helping to raise a thankful child. It’s a long process that takes time and patience, but well worth the effort.
Mental health professionals believe thankfulness is directly related to personal happiness. Raising a thankful child helps develop a character trait that will serve them well in life and their relationships with others.
Janada Clark teaches Love and Logic throughout our community and has taught at Stanford and a number of schools, churches and organizations. She also teaches at Blossom Birth. For class information and other resources visit her website www.janadaclark.com or find her on Facebook.