I remember when my granddaughter was little, perhaps 2 years old, she would wake early and dance happily down the hallway. Then she would stop, cover her mouth with her hand, and make a noise that was half a cough and half a clearing-her-throat type of noise.
We were all mystified for a while. Did she have a cold? Was she coming down with something?
Then one morning, my daughter came to the end of the hallway and stopped. She frowned, put her hand over her mouth and made the same sound as Rachael. "Ahh.. this sinus so annoys me," she muttered. And the light dawned.
Rachael didn't have a sore throat. She didn't have a cold. She was copying her mother, who struggles with asthma and sinus. She's had it since she was little herself. Little Rachael just did exactly what her mother did, almost every morning.
Kids copy their parents almost without thinking. And gratitude is no exception. The best way to develop thankfulness in our kids is for us to show gratitude first. But there are other worthwhile strategies to encourage your kids to be more thankful. Check out some of these ideas that follow.
1. Remember that children learn best by example.
Kids learn best through copying actions, behaviours and attitudes. Any behaviour I want my children to exhibit, I must master first. So, it's important for me to live it. That means remembering to say 'please' and 'thank you' not just because it's polite, but to teach thankfulness to my children. I can best teach them to be grateful by expressing my own gratitude.
In practical terms, it means that, no matter how small the deed, it's important to give thanks when someone does something for me. I understand that when others serve me or buy things for me, it is only out of the generosity in their hearts, not out of obligation. I want my kids to understand that, too.
It's important to show my children that I appreciate others, that I'm humble enough to accept that I am not entitled to their kindness.
2. Guard your children from that sense of entitlement so they may be free to be thankful.
It's not easy to do when advertisements and social media constantly bombard us with images of amazing items we'd love to own. And you can be sure that your kids will know which of the amazing toys on offer their friends want or own. But it's important to be selective in the number of material things children receive. Yes, I know how hard that is, and it doesn't get any easier when you're a grandmother. How much is enough?
But I also know it important to inspire them to appreciate the things they already have. Often having too much limits a person’s ability to be grateful. So, I try to model a long-term sense of appreciation and resist the urge to give them too much.
Click on the clip below to hear Elisa Morgan, (Focus on the Family.) She provides parents with tips for cultivating a grateful heart in their children when it comes to the issue of possessions.
It also means thanking anyone who presents me with a gift. Sending out a thank you card is important, too, and something that kids should be encouraged to do themselves. Model Elle Macpherson expects her children to promptly send a thank you card for any gifts. Here's what she expects and the consequences she initiates if thankfulness is overlooked.
Your kids might be more enthusiastic about writing thank you cards with these printable cards they can complete themselves.
When I take care of the things I have, I'm demonstrating thankfulness for my own possessions and encouraging my kids/grandkids to do the same. It's another way to help kids appreciate what they already have.
Some parents find it helpful to regularly ask their kids to sort through their possessions and decide which ones are not used much and could be donated to other children who have little themselves.
3. Learn to think about others.
This might be as simple as encouraging your kids to compliment others who have worked hard to finish a special project. Perhaps they've won an award. Maybe they've achieved an important milestone. Talk about it and expect your kids to be encouraging.
Spend time together to help someone less fortunate. There's nothing quite like seeing how others are struggling to encourage thankfulness in our kids. Sure, it's good to talk about the difficulties others may be facing but it's so much more meaningful when they experience it firsthand. So volunteer together. Take time together to help out in the community. There's no reason why kids can't be more proactive in volunteering and helping others in practical ways..
4. Look for amazing moments that happen throughout the day and share your gratitude.
Turn dinner into an opportunity to share the special moments from the day with the whole family. Encourage your kids to list the things that happened to them, things they saw, that made them feel thankful.
Create a family gratitude list or journal, or a thankfulness tree or a thankfulness jar,
Money-saving Mom has a free printable 31-day Gratitude Journal for Kids that you might like to download and use, too.
5. Link your thankfulness back to God, reminding your children about His love and care for us and remembering to thank Him.
Take gratitude walks together and look for things for which you're thankful- warm sunshine, shady trees, the songs of cheerful birds, funny little caterpillars and more. Encourage your kids to do more than just list things they see but to also determine why they're thankful. For example, I thank God that made each bird with its own song, and that not every bird sounds like a crow. :). The birds sound beautiful and helps me identify a bird before I even see it. But it reminds me, too, that He made me unique and special, too.
Always look for the positive. Not everything is going to go well but look at those difficult times as teachable moments, times when you can show your kids that God's hand is in everything even when we can't see it. Yet we can still thank God. Perhaps it rains when you'd planned a trip to the beach. The rain will benefit the farmers who need rain for the strawberry crop- yum! And it might be a great time, instead, to go to the cinema for that movie you'd all wanted to see. These are wonderful opportunities to practise turning complaints into praise.
Okay.. so what about some other fun, family, ideas to focus on and encourage gratitude? Check out these suggestions:
* Learn how to make Gratitude Stones
* Go on a Scavenger Photo Hunt together.
* Make a Kindness ChatterBox (cootie catcher)
* Play a game of Gratitude Pick-up Sticks
* Create and hang up some Thankfulness Wind Spinners
* Smile it Forward with printable Kindness Activities for kids
* 7-Day Gratitude Challenge for Kids
Today, my choice is to foster a genuine sense of gratitude in the hearts of my children that goes beyond a simple habit of being polite. I'll seek to teach my children to use their manners to give thanks but also have a deep appreciation for others. Check out the questions below for reflection.
1. Do I demonstrate gratitude in the way I care for my possessions?
2. How can I foster a deep sense of gratitude in my children beyond simply giving thanks?
3. Why is it best to limit the amount of things I buy for my children?
Life as a grandma.. it's no 'quiet, restful days in the rocking-chair'. It's filled with activity, excitement and lots of family fun. Please share it with me.