Okay, I admit it. You can’t make anyone be thankful. Thankfulness comes from the heart. Still, it is possible to teach your children the need to be thankful, and give them some lessons and opportunities to develop a thankful heart on their own. Here are five thoughts that might help.
1. Remind Them What to be Thankful For
Children are naturally selfish. Some of us never grow out of that. Still, it is a good exercise to remind our children about the things in their lives for which they should be thankful.
They may not have everything everyone else has, (more on that in a moment) but they have more than someone somewhere has. As I am writing this post, it is Thanksgiving morning. All of my family is still asleep. I have thought about the day we are about to enjoy, and I realize that the majority of the world will never enjoy a meal like we will have today.
So much of the world is in poverty. That doesn’t mean that I am not going to enjoy the meal. On the contrary, I intend to enjoy it very much! It just means that I will be thankful for it, and I intend to remind my children just how thankful we should be. That is just one example.
2. Require Expressions of Thanks
Remember when your mom made you apologize for hitting your sister or brother? Did you mean it when you said you were sorry? I sure didn’t!
I don’t think my mom cared whether I meant it, she just wanted me to get in the habit of saying the words. Sometimes saying the words come before our understanding of the words.
Does this make us a hypocrite? Certainly not. Many of us say words long before we learn their true meaning. I would argue that a lot of people are going around today using words that they have no idea what they mean. If we can do that, then we can instruct our children to say “thank you.”
I see far too many children demanding things from those around them, but never expressing simple gratitude for a need or want met. It isn’t hard. A simple conversation to show you how it might go is this:
Child –I want a piece of candy.
Adult-You can ask nicely.
Child-Can I please have a piece of candy?
Adult- Of course, here you go!
Adult- What do you say?
Child- Thank you.
Now, this may seem simple, but it works. Another thing that works is to follow-up with your children when they come home with something they received from someone else. Simply ask “Did you say thank you?” They may lie and say that they did, when in fact they did not, but it will start reinforcing the correct behavior in their minds. We can work on the lying in another post.
3. Create Scarcity to Promote Being Thankful
Kids today, in much of the Western world, have way too much stuff. They have grown up with so much stuff that they don’t know how to be thankful for what they have.
I don’t think it is impossible to have a lot of stuff and be thankful for it all, but it is not the normal state of things.
Spoiled brats are not thankful people.
As a parent, I want to give good things to my kids. I want them to have stuff. However, I have learned that the more I give them, the more demanding they become. They expect it.
When our children have to work for things, of wait for things, it is far easier for them to be thankful for those things once they get them.
Our children receive a small allowance each week, as part of our program for teaching them basic money management. Recently, they took their spendable money (I know that all money is spendable, but this is money they are allowed to spend any way they want.) and went to the store to buy some items they wanted. When we arrived at the store, they realized that they did not have enough money to make the purchase. Did I bail them out? Nope. I told them to save for it. They will appreciate it more, if they have to wait. Maybe our kids should wait more.
Another simple area is in the area of candy and junk food in general. Not only do our kids not need as much junk food as they are eating these days, but they would be much more thankful for it, if it wasn’t around so much. Come to think of it, I would be thankful if it wasn’t around so much!
Creating scarcity goes against the grain. Just because you can give it doesn’t mean you should. Our job is to teach our children, and this is a purposeful way to do that.
4. Model a Thankful Attitude
Yep…model it. Show your kids the way you expect them to act. Be thankful. Express gratitude. Write thank you cards.
Our kids will pick up more by what they see us do, than what they hear us say. If they can see and hear us being grateful, then that is a double win.
What other ways would you recommend to teach thankfulness to your kids? I would love to get your opinion on this. Leave a comment and let me know! And hey…thanks for reading!