Tag Archives: teach your children gratitude

Teach Your Children Gratitude

By Tracey Dowdy

The holidays bring out the best and the worst in people, don’t they? ‘Tis the season for giving, but if we aren’t careful, it’s also the season for crowds, spending beyond our budget, and unrealistic expectations. 

Managing our own expectations is important, but it’s also essential we manage the expectations of our children. These tips can help you teach your children gratitude not only at the holidays but all year round. 

Start by leading by example. It’s something of a cliche, but more is caught than taught when it comes to parenting. If you want to raise grateful children, show gratitude yourself. Studies show that kids use courtesy words only about twenty percent as much as they hear them, so it’s important they hear it often, especially from you. While you’re at it, help them understand that saying thank you for a gift they may not like isn’t lying. Gratitude isn’t only about the present; it’s being grateful that they were given anything at all and appreciating that someone else spent their time and effort to give them a gift.

Talk about feelings. Everyone wants to feel valued and appreciated for who they are and what they do. Tell your children to think about how they feel when someone thanks them and remind them that they’re helping the other person experience those same feelings of happiness when they show gratitude. Help them understand that the giver is more important than the gift. 

Say more than just “Thank you.” The most meaningful thank you’s have three parts: the actual thank you; speaking the other person’s name; naming the gift, and saying something nice about it. For example, “Thank you for the Legos, Uncle Nikko. I love building things,” or “Thank you for the baby doll, Auntie Sarah. I love her pretty curls that look just like mine,” or even, “Thank you for thinking of me, Grandma. I can always use more socks.” 

Don’t feel pressured to buy everything on their list. Children have little or no concept of money, and if they still believe presents come from Santa, their expectations can run wild. Paradoxically, the more you give, the more they’ll want. Let them create their lists, then talk about what items are most important.  Pick and choose, staying within your budget. Going over budget now may make for an exciting Christmas morning, but it also makes for a miserable January when those credit card payments are due. 

Do unto others. If you really want to help them understand the importance of gratitude, find a way to serve your community. There are countless organizations like Operation Christmas SpiritSalvation Army Angel TreeMake-A-Wish Foundation, and Toys for Tots that do charitable work all year but have special initiatives at Christmas. Food pantries, homeless shelters, animal shelters, and other local communities also have ways you can help families in need around the holidays. Have your children look through the options that are meaningful to them, and donate time, finances, or pantry staples – whatever the need. Raising community-minded adults begins by instilling compassion in your children. The holidays are a perfect time to reinforce that compassion. 

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits, and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

Socially Distanced Acts of Kindness for Families 

By Tracey Dowdy

I feel like nearly everything I’ve written for the last eight months starts with some iteration or acknowledgment of the statement “2020 has brought unprecedented challenges to families…” One of the healthiest ways to take your mind of the relentless bad news cycle and frustration is and see all the good that’s happening around us is to take our eyes off ourselves and do something kind for others. 

As parents, we tend to prioritize our children’s happiness and achievements over their concern for others. But, part of raising healthy children who mature into healthy adults is teaching them kindness and compassion towards others. 

So with Thanksgiving just days away, here are a few ways for your family to show small acts of kindness to those who may need some encouragement and bring a little light and happiness into their lives. 

Though some home-baked goods may not be an option during a pandemic, there are still ways to say thank you to frontline workers like nurses, doctors, EMTs, firefighters, and law enforcement for the extraordinary work they’ve been doing. Have your children create a card or make a poster and drop it off at their station, hospital, or clinic. If you want to go bigger, get your neighbors, playgroup, or friends to pitch in a buy them all pizza or coffee and doughnuts. 

Next time you’re in line at a drive-through, pay for the car behind you in line. It’s a simple gesture, but it teaches your children that being kind is important whether the receiver ever shows you gratitude or recognizes what you’ve done. 

Whether you go old school and write out the notes by hand, send texts, emails, or through social media, have your children think of people who’ve shown them kindness, taught them something new, or served them their Happy Meal with a smile. 2020 has been hard on all of us, but the service industry – house cleaners, baristas, servers, and tradespeople – has been hit particularly hard. 

Stock up on non-perishable items like canned goods, pasta, rice, beans, personal hygiene items, or socks and drop them off at a local food bank or homeless shelter. For specifics on what to donate and what to skip, click on this list from Local Love and Domestic Shelters helps you find domestic violence shelters that are accepting donations right now. 

Deliver meals, groceries, or pharmacies to a shut-in or senior citizen in your neighborhood or help them do yard work and winterize their home. 

Blood donations have dropped significantly over the past several months, so if you and your child are eligible, consider donating blood. Click here for a blood drive in your area. 

Finally, if you prefer to volunteer from home, All for Good has a list of service ideas and opportunities in your area. 

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits, and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.