Like any parent, I have so many hopes and dreams for my kids. I don’t have specifics nailed down, as in I don’t care which college they go to or what they do for work, but my goodness I do care that I help them to grow up to be happy, self-sufficient, hard-working, kind and grateful.
At the forefront of my day to day attitude about life is gratitude. Focusing on all the good things in my life is what helps keep me positive, focused and calm. Gratitude, counting blessings, focusing on the positive- whatever you call it, it makes a huge difference in my happiness level and is a trait I desperately hope to instill in my girls.
It isn’t always the easiest goal to shoot for or feel like you’re succeeding with when it comes to young children. Many times it can feel like “mine” and “I want” is all that comes out of their mouths. Those phrases just add fuel to my gratitude-teaching fire, and though it may take time for young children to grasp the concept, I don’t think it’s ever too early to start talking about the idea of being grateful and giving back.
This time of year makes it easy to focus on thankfulness, so I wanted to share a few simple ideas we’re using for instilling gratitude in the girls.
Ask them what they are grateful for. How is that for starting with simple? I love this one though. I ask my children two things everyday. First, I ask them what their favorite part of the day was. I love hearing what stuck out in their minds, as very often it surprises me. The second question I ask is what is one thing they are grateful for? Hailey loves this question and will usually answer it with a long, multifaceted response that lists family members, favorite foods, friends or things she did that day (I’m grateful for TV – really warms a mother’s heart- ha). We all go around and answer and though that may sound cheese-tastic to some of you, hearing my daughter list off what she is grateful for (and listing off your own answers too) makes me more proud that any letter-writing skill or soccer goal kick.
Say thank you. Modeling behavior is obviously the best way to get kids to learn. More is caught than taught after all. So just like how I do with feelings, I verbalize my thankfulness on the regular. Thanking the girls for their help putting up laundry, thanking David for helping me move something, thanking strangers for holding open doors. I don’t want it to become a meaningless reflex, but my hope is the girls will realize how important it is to recognize and appreciation small things we can do to help each other out.
Get them involved in giving back. Don’t we all pay more attention when we have some skin in the game? I know I do. It’s easy to give other people’s money or goods, but you feel the impact more when it’s your own. When we donate gently used clothes, I have Hailey help pick them out and pile them up while I explain to her where they are going.
More so than clothes, which I find there isn’t usually a strong attachment to, especially if she’s outgrown them, I have her pick out toys to donate. We certainly have more toys than we need, but somehow each one of them is a favorite. It’s impossible for me to gather some to donate without a meltdown, so I put that task into Hailey’s hands. I give her a large bag and tell her to pick which toys she’d like to give away to other little boys and girls. By taking ownership, the process goes much more smoothly.
Pick out a local organization to help. This time of year makes it so easy. Angel Trees, pet trees, canned good drives and more are around every corner. I love the angel trees because I think it help Hailey visualize how she’s helping. She always wants to shop for another little girl.
At four years old, she doesn’t fully understand the concept of money, but she does receive $5 in cards from grandparents on the occasion, which she loves stuffing right into her piggy bank. Though this is great and all, I also am starting to have her divide her money into savings, spending and giving (any other Dave Ramsey fans out there?) I’d like her ‘giving’ money to go towards buying that warm bed for a pet at the shelter or buying the toothbrush for that little girl she wants to shop for on the angel tree so she can understand the concept of giving a little better and get the feeling of how fortunate we are to be in a place that we can give back.
My oldest is only 4, so I’m still figuring out how to raise them with gratitude. These are working well for us thus far, but I am always open to learning about what has worked well for others, so please chime in!
What have you done/do you do to teach gratitude to your kids?
How did you learn to be grateful yourself?