Teaching Children Gratitude

Eliza Clark
November 20, 2013

Halloween’s hedonistic greediness is past (has the candy "gone bad" and disappeared at your house yet?), and the Thanksgiving season is upon us.  For those of us with young children who tend to mark the passage of time according to holidays and seasons, this new phase of the year offers a chance to focus a bit on gratitude. Many preschoolers, of course, would be glad to skip straight to the December holidays, but when they ask us what season it is now, we’ll be telling them that November is the season of thankfulness.
 
Instilling young kids with a sense of gratefulness toward others is no obvious undertaking. As every parent observes on a daily basis, the little ones have a self-centered streak born of a sheer sense of their own dependency. If taught to say please and thank you in order to get what they need and want, they will go along. Politeness is very important, but it’s not quite the same as truly recognizing and acknowledging all the things that others do for us.
 
During this season of thankfulness, we are making and trying to keep a few resolutions for teaching our children to notice and appreciate the contributions of others. Most of all we want them to see that the best part about gratitude is that it brings joy and connection – just as much to those saying “thank you” as to those saying “you’re very welcome.”

Our teaching gratitude resolutions:

  • To set an example of thankfulness for our kids.  We’ll remember to thank them for all of the lovely little things they do.  Children like being thanked.  Some so much that they’ll still say "you’re welcome" if you forget.
  • To make our thanks more than just pro forma.  Telling people very specifically why we’re thankful makes them feel great.  This is something kids can learn to do too.
  • To get our kids in the habit of working on thank you notes.  Preschoolers can decorate notes with stickers, draw designs, scrawl their names, affix stamps, etc.  Giving thanks can be a beautiful thing!
  • To give our kids plenty of ways to help out around the house.  This gives us more chances to thank them, and helps them comprehend a bit of what goes into all of the many things others do for them.
  • To get the children involved in some kind of goodwill project this month.  We might sort toys, clothes and books to give to charity, or put together a package for a sick relative.
  • To express gratitude & wonder for the big and little things – and to encourage our children, preferably at bedtime when they are snuggled under cozy covers, to tell us what they are most grateful for.

From the Parents

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