Happy Thanksgiving to everyone celebrating in the United States (as well as expats overseas) today! In honor of this national day of giving thanks, I’m thrilled to share a guest post written by a blogging friend of mine, Michele Tripple. If ever there were a Supermom, this amazing mama is definitely one in my eyes! When I asked her if she could write a guest post on how to teach your kids gratitude, this beautiful post is what she sent me. Enjoy!
We have all been there in the store when our child passes by the candy aisle and begs for a candy bar. As parents, we calmly say, “no” and move on… We then pass by the toy section and they beg for the newest toy that has just come out… They beg for it, you calmly say, “no” and then it happens…
The cries, and the kicks. The screams, and the looks from everyone wondering what you are doing to your child.
You quickly pick up the toy they want, race back to the candy aisle, and pick that up too, just to get them to be quiet.
The whole time, while you are thinking in your head “never again will this happen,” your child is grinning ear to ear because they got everything they wanted and they are thinking, “WINNING!”
You go and pay for these items your child really didn’t need. They eat the candy bar quietly on the way home, and they add this brand new toy they “had to have” to the heap of toys that are already there from the previous shopping trips, never to be played with again. All without so much as a thank you or a hug, while you continue to think, is my child grateful for anything I do for them?
Two of the questions that haunt parents the most are these:
1. How do I teach my children to be grateful for what they have?
2. Am I doing enough to teach them this?
I used to be that mom in the store… The one that would walk in, get a cart, and then beg my kids to sit down in it so I could buckle them. Begging didn’t work, so it turned to bribery!
Three minutes into the store and they already had popcorn and a toy from the dollar section, just to sit down. All without a thank you.
You could probably guarantee that we would pick up a few more unnecessary items in that trip, just to get them to not cause a ruckus for everyone to see. Our shopping trips became a dreaded event for me, knowing this would occur and that I would have to buy things that were unappreciated and not needed with no sign of gratitude.
One day I finally decided that this all had to stop and my kids needed to learn that they didn’t need everything. AND they needed to learn that they had many things to be grateful for! So the hard work began to teach our children that there was more to life than popcorn and toys from the store.
Within a month of working with the kids on being grateful our shopping trips were joyful, our hard work was paying off! We could walk into a store and shop like normal human beings! We would talk about things that we saw that they really liked all without begging, crying, kicking, or screaming all thanks to them learning how to be grateful for what they had!
Wanna Know My Tricks for Teaching Your Kids Gratitude?
Well, you are in luck! Because here they are!
How To Teach Your Kids GRATITUDE
G: Give the kids jobs to do
The first thing we did was we gave the kids jobs to do around the house. (These weren’t simple jobs like make your bed, although that is a good one to start with! These were real jobs like mow the lawn, clean the toilets, vacuum the carpets…) We did this so they could learn to be responsible and learn that many things take hard work.
I remember the first time I told the boys they were going to clean the toilet! I took them upstairs to their pee-infested toilet and lifted the lid to find the remnants of a typical “boy bathroom.”
They both thought that it was the most disgusting thing that they had ever seen. I looked at them and said, “Yeah, and who do you think cleans it several times a week?” Quietly they said, “You.”
That day they learned just how hard it was to clean the toilet, and since then they have a little bit better aim because they know who has to clean it, them.
Occasionally, if they are busy with school, sports, music, and other after school activities I will sneak in there and clean it. When I do, the gratitude and thanks I get is well worth the 15 minutes of time it took me!
R: Resist the urge of giving them too much
I will have to admit, this one is so hard for me! I think it is hard for all parents, though, because they want their kids to be happy and they don’t ever want them to feel sad or left out. So we give and give and give.
But we must remember: Stuff does not buy happiness. The popcorn or candy I would buy at the store didn’t buy happiness for more than a few minutes. It was quickly gone, and life went on, and that kind gesture was forgotten about in a matter of a couple hours.
Constantly giving to our kids teaches them that they can get anything at any point. We must provide our children with their basic needs, but we need to be careful about overindulging our children in too much stuff, because it becomes an expectation rather than a token of kindness they are grateful for.
Now, when we head to the store, I plan if we will buy something or not well before we go. Then, on the way I will tell them, “Hey, would you like to pick out a new shirt? Or would you like a small candy to share?” They excitedly say yes, and the first thing they do after picking out their item is they are over giving hugs with big smiles saying thank you, and in my head I now get to say, “WINNING!”
A: Attitude of Gratitude
We as parents must have an attitude of gratitude, and as we do our children follow suit. About a year ago I started a gratitude journal, and every day I pick one thing that I am grateful for to write about.
I will be honest, on rough days it is hard to find something to be grateful for, but I always was able to find something when I put my mind to it. Now on my blog each Saturday I post a “There is Sunshine in My Soul” post, to publicly express gratitude for the things that I have. In our home we try really hard to not speak negatively about things, because it just drives our attitude of gratitude right out the window!
T: Teach by example
We can’t expect our kids to be grateful and show appreciation when they don’t see or hear us show sincere gratitude in our lives.
- Do you your kids hear you thank others for the help you receive?
- Do you express a heartfelt thank you for the unexpected hug that lit up your morning?
- Or for them putting their laundry away without being asked?
Kids are little sponges soaking everything up, so we must set ask ourselves what are my kids learning from me?
I: Intentional “Gratitude Moments” every day
This month we have begun to have intentional gratitude moments. Each night at the dinner table we sit down, and we all show a picture of something we are grateful for. Then we talk about it! (You can see a collage of some of these pictures at the end of the post.)
This has elevated my kids’ level of gratitude. A few weeks ago, my son took a picture of me while I was driving him to Scouts. Why? Because he was grateful for me driving him there!
Take time with your kids every day to have intentional gratitude moments, and see all the wonderful things they are grateful for!
T: It takes Time
Gratitude does not happen overnight. I really wanted to be able to snap my fingers and magically have my kids be grateful, but it didn’t happen that way…It took time.
- It took trips to the store reminding the kids we weren’t buying anything, and still having tears leaving.
- Also, it took me changing MY attitude and being more grateful for things in my life.
- Plus it took me being more intentional, and taking the time to have teachable moments when it came to gratitude.
- Finally, it took lots of patience… It still takes patience.
My kids are so much better, but they are still not perfect on being grateful. I do still have to remind them to be grateful for the little things at times… It is a learning process.
U: Use the word “NO” with your kids
This goes back to the concept RESIST THE URGE OF GIVING THEM TOO MUCH. Our kids need to hear us say “no,” because our kids don’t need everything or the very best of everything.
When we use the word “no” when necessary, then it makes the “yes” more special and they will be quick to express gratitude for the things we give them.
D: Donate time, talents, and toys
Every year at this time I drag my kids upstairs to the playroom, and we make 3 piles: keep, give away, and trash. Each toy is carefully looked at and put into a pile. The “keeps” are put back, the “trash” goes to the trash can, and the “give away” is packed up and put in the back. Then we drive it to Helping Hands (donation location) so that other children can enjoy what we don’t need anymore.
This teaches so many lessons, but one of the biggest is to be grateful for what we have so that we can give to others.
One of my favorite songs says, “Because I have been given much, I too must give; Because of thy great bounty Lord, Each Day I live; I shall divide my gifts from thee with every brother that I see who has the need of help from me.” (Because I have Been Given Much by Grace Noll Crowell) We can also teach our kids to share their talents with others or donate their time to help one another. By doing these things, it allows them to be grateful for the things that they have.
E: Set Expectations
My children’s school has a saying “Expect your best…” Well, at home we say, “Expect their best.” Set reasonable expectations when it comes to them showing gratitude and thankfulness.
My kids used to complain at dinner, “Chicken again? Why don’t we ever eat anything good?” We sat down and had a heart-to-heart, and stated that this behavior was no longer ok. We set an expectation that no matter what we eat, each member of the family will thank the chef for the meal. Since then, thank-you’s are sincerely given, even from our two year old, because we set that expectation with our kids.
What would you add to help teach your children to be grateful? Let us know in the comments!
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Michele Tripple was raised in California and currently lives in Texas with her husband and their 5 kids. Michele’s passion is helping strengthen families, specifically focusing on blending families together. When Michele is not pursuing her passion, you can find her at her kids’ football games, baseball games, and gymnastics meets cheering them on! She loves the outdoors and going on adventures with her family. She loves running and staying in shape. In her limited free time you will find her in the kitchen trying new recipes or curled up with a good book. You can visit her blogging at Confessions of Parenting!