Most of our children today spend so many hours watching television that they are constantly bombarded with images that make it difficult for them to develop a sense of gratitude. They see an endless variety of new toys, games, and videos and take in hidden messages such as: Â“What can I get next?Â” and Â“How can I get my parents to get me what I want?Â”
Most of our children today spend so many hours watching television that they are constantly bombarded with images that make it difficult for them to develop a sense of gratitude. They see an endless variety of new toys, games, and videos and take in hidden messages such as: “What can I get next?” and “How can I get my parents to get me what I want?”
Parents usually give in to their kids’ demands for new toys and effects—whatever the current craze is. But when we forget to help our children stop, appreciate, cherish and give sentimental value to gifts, then we let them live in a ‘throw-away’ society where the only things that are special are things we want right now.
Kids, especially those younger than seven years, lack the developmental skills to help them understand how other people feel or how their actions affect others. It takes years before children are able to think beyond their own wants and needs. That is why we need to teach them to be thankful as early as possible.
When a child learns gratitude early and properly, he will show empathy—the ability to share in another person’s thoughts and feelings. Not only is empathy crucial to a child as he grows in the world of his peers, but an empathic child logically feels more connected to his parents.
So the question now is, “How can we teach our children to be grateful?” Today’s parents find that teaching kids about gratitude and empathy can be difficult. Thankfully, there are many ways to raise kids to become more appreciative and to show it.
Here are some surefire strategies on how to raise thankful children:
1. Teach good manners.
As parents, we need to teach our children to say ‘thank you’ whenever they receive goods, services, or acts of kindness. Make the connection between acts of kindness and appropriate words. You are not only teaching them good manners, you are also teaching them empathy.
2. Don’t demand thanks.
Avoid commanding your child to be courteous or withholding a gift if he does not say ‘thank you’. Remember that gratitude should not stem from shame or fear of punishment. Your child is less likely to learn this value if it is prevailed upon him, especially if he is scolded or shamed.
3. Consider the reasons behind ungrateful behavior.
A child who is hungry, upset, over-stimulated or tired can hardly be expected to be on his best behavior. Take his temperament into account as well. Some kids are more outgoing and talkative and therefore more likely to express their thanks easily as opposed to a reserved child.
4. Make the child part in the gift-giving process.
Take your child along as you do your Christmas or birthday gift shopping. If it is too difficult, employ your child’s help when making homemade gifts, like baked goods or simply ask him to decide which gift should go to whom. By doing so, you make him learn to see how much of an effort it takes, and you make him more appreciative of the gifts he receives from others.
5. Train your kids to write thank you notes.
They can write notes to teachers, aunts, or anyone who give gifts. Notes are important because they demonstrate and instill a higher level of appreciation. The child would have to think a lot more about what the person actually did for him and therefore internalize why he should be grateful.
6. Be a role model for your children.
Children learn from watching, so your actions may speak louder than your words. Make an effort to be thankful for even the little things and to visibly express it. If showing appreciation is not your best suits, then you can’t expect your children to be grateful either.
Ultimately, the best way for parents to teach gratitude is the old-fashioned way—by living it out at home. Saying “thank you” to each other and recognizing the special contributions of each family member will naturally lead children to carry the attitude of gratitude into their adult lives.
As a final point, here is a verse from the Word of God to remember:
“In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thess. 5:18