8 Ways to Raise Thankful Kids
Sometimes it seems like it is a losing battle in our consumer driven society. Turn on any of your kids’ favorite TV shows and you will see commercial after commercial pressing your child to want more things. I was recently talking to a few friends and we all agreed that this holiday season our kids don’t really want anything because they already have it all. How do you raise kids to be thankful when it seems as if the world is at their disposal? When there is a constant emphasis on having the newest, best, most updated thing.
1. Model appreciation. Just because your kids have to do a chore doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be thanked. It is my “job” to cook dinner every night, but I still like to be thanked for my effort. It makes me feel like my hard work hasn’t gone unnoticed.
“Thank you for bringing all your dirty clothes down to the laundry room this week. It certainly made it easier for me not to have to search the house for all the laundry!”
2. Practice random acts of kindness. As human beings all of us like to feel important and special. Doing little surprise things for your kids gives them the opportunity to practice being thankful and to understand that being grateful isn’t tied to a dollar amount. I will stick small things in my kids’ lunches–a note, a tiny candy with a heart sticker on it, a piece of gum… something that lets them know I was thinking of them.
3. Talk about all the ways that your family is blessed and lucky. Sometimes when I catch myself complaining about things, most recently about the annoyingly awkward placement of the built in TV cabinet in our family room, I will consciously point out to my children how lucky I am that my greatest complaint in life is that I can’t see the TV from every spot on my couch. And isn’t that the case with many of the things we all complain about?
4. Don’t be afraid to say no to your kids. I am definitely of the less is more mindset when it comes to personal possessions. I don’t think that any child can fully appreciate things that are just given to them whenever the desire strikes. If you find your kids acting greedy and self-entitled, they probably need to hear no more often.
5. Practice what you preach. For years my kids have been telling me that I need to buy a new car. They tell me that my minivan is old and ugly, both of which are true. However, it is also reliable, completely paid for, and the insurance on it is cheap. On and off I contemplate buying a new car, but for now I keep it out of principle. I want to model for my children the distinction between needs and wants. Yes, I tell my kids I want a new car. I want a lot of things. I don’t deny that all of us want things in life that we don’t have. But the secret to being happy in life is being thankful for the things you do. I think the sooner that lesson sinks in to their heads, the better people they will become.
6. Give them some perspective. My children’s elementary school has taken on a community service project this year raising money and items for a children’s home near us. Learning about how other children, who only live on the other side of town, lack basic things that we consider needs has helped them to be empathetic and to open their hearts to giving.
7. Model giving with no expectations of getting anything in return. When we drive downtown there are always people standing on the corners of major intersections, holding signs, asking for money, food, a job. Whenever my children ask, I let them look in my wallet for money to give. I don’t always have cash.
“But how do you know they they will spend it on something good and not drugs or beer?” one of my kids asked once. A valid question that I have even heard adults ask.
“I don’t know. Giving means that you give up control. What other people chose to do with a gift they are given is their choice. I have to believe that a person who is in a good place in their life would not be standing on the street corner begging. I am thankful my life hasn’t taken that sort of turn.”
I know that this small thing has made my children feel more empathetic and humanized the homeless population in our city.
8. Teach your children how to say thank you. This may seem self-explanatory, but then you probably haven’t experienced the awkward moment of having a child open a gift and freeze because they don’t know how to respond because it isn’t something they like. I have tried to teach my kids that a gift is an expression of the giver’s love and the fact they thought enough of you to buy you this token. Whether you like the item or not really doesn’t matter when gifts are viewed with this mindset. Liking a gift isn’t a requirement for being thankful.
I recently had the experience of a friend giving me a hand made tote bag that she thought would be perfect for me since I am constantly schlepping things back and forth to my kids’ athletic events. It was not something I would have ever picked out for myself. My kids saw me using the bag a week or so later and questioned if I liked it because it didn’t seem like something that was my style. I told them truthfully that I loved the tote bag because it reminded me of how lucky I was to have such a great friend who would think of me. I embrace the faux fur and sparkles proudly.
This is the time of year when we all start to thinks about being thankful. It is the time when we reflect on the past year and consider where we want to go in our lives in the upcoming one. How have you helped your children be thankful for all they are blessed with?
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