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How do we teach our children about thankfulness?

iStock_000004249132XSmallThis time of year is full of reminders to be thankful: commercials on TV, daily posts from friends on Facebook, every where we turn the idea of thankfulness is around us. It’s wonderful that people are thankful during the holidays, but as mothers we strive to teach our children that thankfulness should be a part of our daily lives. Here are a few ways that the Oklahoma City Moms Blog team try to teach our children to have thankful hearts…

Jeana — I teach my kids about thankfulness by teaching them about doing things for others. I teach them that this isn’t a “me” world and to be thankful for what they have, not want. During our nightly prayer time, we say one thing we are thankful for that day.  Helps them to keep “thankful” in mind.

Katie — We try to teach our daughter thankfulness in a few ways. When we say prayers together we talk about things we are thankful for each day before we tell God thank you. Big things like our health, safe travels, and Jesus, but also the little things like smiles from friends or fun times at the park. When birthdays and holidays come around or anytime someone shows kindness to us as a family or gives us gifts we write (draw or paint) thank you cards and pictures to send them in the mail. We try to make treats together or give little gifts every few months to her teachers and our church staff. And we as parents lead by example making sure we verbally tell others (and our daughter) “thank you” for holding doors, sharing toys, helping with chores, or just being a friend!

Angie — As a mother of young kids, I have found it hard for my children to grasp the concept of thankfulness.  It is definitely a characteristic we try to instill everyday, even more so around the holidays.  When the teachable moments arise, we remind them of things to be thankful.  This is challenging since they naturally prefer to get upset or mad when something doesn’t go their way.  In order to help in this endeavor, we have started a “game” we play in the car.  We play this “game” when they are about to have a melt down.  They have to list three things they are thankful for.  It can be anything big or small.  This not only defuses the melt down, but also starts their thinking down the path of being thankful for what they do have.

Maria —  From the time that both of our girls could talk, we taught them to say “thank you” when they were given toys to play with, food, etc. That continues today as we are constantly using that word throughout our daily lives. During our bedtime prayers, we mostly focus on what we are thankful for from that day. The holidays and birthdays are a great time to teach about thankfulness, so we read books on the subject, and will send thank you cards to people for gifts. My girls are both still young (4 & 2) and I’m certain that they still don’t grasp what it means to be “thankful.” But as time goes on, and they get older and older, I hope that they understand just how important it is to share their thankful attitudes with the world!

Erin — I am so excited that my little guy (almost 2) has finally learned to say “thank you”!  I want him to understand that when he gets something, he should be thankful and verbalize that to the giver.  My daughter (4) is really good about it as well, although we have to remind her on occasion.  I want my children to not just assume that they will get something just because they want it, but to be thankful that it was given to them.  I want them to grow up knowing that they aren’t entitled to anything and to be thankful in all circumstances.

Whitney — Remember that teaching thankfulness and gratitude is a long-term goal and it’s not something that can be taught in a single conversation. Look for teachable moments, like someone who is homeless asking for money. Tell your child that not everyone is as fortunate as they are and we always need to look for ways to help others. Tell them often the ways you are thankful so they understand all of the different ways someone can feel gratitude.

Jenna — Being thankful has been such a huge character trait that has been set on my heart as a mom to teach Noah. Daily, I want him to have a giving and thankful spirit when interacting with others.  I try and teach him this by modeling my gratefulness from others, and demonstrating a giving nature to those in need.  I constantly talk to him about how blessed we are, but at the same time we are not any more special than our neighbor next to us. During the holiday season I love to teach him through acts of service, stories, and examples.

Courtney — Most things that children learn are learned from adults and in contexts.  So one of the best ways we plan to teach our children about thankfulness is to simply intentionally incorporate it in our lives as a family behavior.  If the concepts we want children to display are always part of the family environment, then the children will grow up just assuming that is a normal way to behave. As they age, they will understand the concept better, and will be able to choose to display thankfulness, but in the meantime, we try to emulate general thankfulness-like behavior, like saying a simple “thank you” when appropriate.  In our prayers we also thank God for the people and things that we have in our lives.  Maybe next year, when we are not living one time-out to the next, we will be able to plan and provide additional opportunities for teaching children thankfulness like serving food to the less fortunate, making cookies for firefighters, writing thank you cards for gifts and experiences, and voicing their thankfulness for what they appreciate the most.

Carrie — With a one year old, it doesn’t always seem that we have that much impact on her as far as thankfulness goes. But, we work hard to teach her to be thankful for what she has by teaching her to take care of the things. My husband and I make sure that she treats her toys appropriately and cleans up and puts things away at the end of every play time. I hope that by teaching her that the things she has aren’t to be abused and then easily replaced, that she’ll start to realize that the things we have are luxuries and we have been blessed with them and also charged with keeping them in good condition. Hopefully this is a start of much more thankfulness to come.

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