One of the holidays I enjoy the most is Thanksgiving. For me it’s not about the food but really making the time to be thankful. No matter how complicated life gets, I always find something that makes me feel extremely fortunate and I want to teach that to my kids as well.
Ever since my children were preschoolers I have shown them we can give back to the community as a family. We have cooked meals for those who cannot afford a Thanksgiving dinner, helped gather food donations and made cards so people that have no families feel valued and special. At the end of the year, we write thank you cards or notes for their teachers, just to show them we appreciate what they do on a daily basis. We also donate toys and clothes, not only during the holidays. It’s become a part of their lives. When I was packing donated items to take with me to Haiti in January, my daughter even made a card for the women in the tent camps that would receive the donations.
So much is written about entitled children that we forget about children that do appreciate even the simple things in life. We can all raise our kids to be thankful and generous, because both go hand in hand. The trick is to start early and to make it a part of your life. That way it is a part of your family’s life and your children won’t think twice about giving back to the community. It’s the best antidote to feeling entitled.
Tips to raise thankful children
If you want to raise a thankful kid, here are a few tips:
Teach manners. Ever since my children were toddlers we practiced the words “please” and “thank you,” because I think they are essential to any person’s vocabulary. It’s the small things that form habits that reflect your attitude towards life.
Set the example. Show your own gratitude, manners and thankfulness every time you can. It can be at the supermarket, pharmacy or playground. Volunteer at school, church or community events. Our children learn by example and will copy what they see at home.
Make it fun. You can create a game in which everybody in your family takes turns and mentions one thing they are thankful for. You can volunteer as a family so it becomes an activity in which you share time together while giving back to the community. Or right before Thanksgiving, have your child make a card for a family member that says Thank You. Read books that teach about generosity, such as “The Giving Tree.” You can find other suggested books about gratitude here.
Reinforce what you like. Never underestimate the power of positive reinforcement. Whenever you catch your child doing a good deed, showing appreciation and a great attitude, call him or her on it. If this is really important to you, make a chart and keep track of your child’s good and generous deeds.
Show gratitude to teachers and daycare providers. Make drawings, cards or give an end of the year gift with a thank you card. Have your child sign the card and explain why it is so important to say thank you and show appreciation to those who take care of her or him.
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