Nothing gives me greater pleasure when I pick up my kids from a friend's house than when I'm told my kids were appropriately polite, saying "please" and "thank you" at just the right times, without being prompted. These are the moments when I start to believe that I am not a complete failure as a mom.
As we head toward Thanksgiving Day, and even more so, into a holiday season that can certainly foster an attitude of entitlement and greed in our children, how do instill an "attitude of gratitude" in our children that can last a lifetime?
1) Start young. We taught our kids very simple signs from American Sign Language when they first started learning to communicate with us. When it came to meeting their needs, knowing if they wanted "more" or were "all done" was very helpful. "Please" and "thank you" were also included as integral to toddler communication from the very beginning. By the time they learned to talk, saying "thank you" after receiving something was much more instinctive for them.
2) Say "no" sometimes. I'm sure it is no surprise that my kids don't get everything they want whenever they want it. The sad fact is that, due to our finances, it seems like we have to say "no" to their requests much more often than we can say "yes." Thankfully, the times when we unexpectedly say "yes" makes them that much more appreciative. While most days at the grocery store, we just buy what we need, the times when they get to pick out a special treat stand out in their minds as something for which to be grateful.
3) Provide an outlet. This year, as we get ready for Thanksgiving, we are writing down one thing for which we are thankful and taping it to our "Gratitude Tree." We have leaves with things ranging "family" and "friends" to "my doll" and "books." Writing something each day has encouraged them to think of things from the very big to the very small. After Christmas, provide stationary for pictures and letters to communicate gratitude to grandparents and other family members. If we provide the space and place, our kids will be more likely to have gratitude become and integral part of their nature.
4) Model it. Nothing means more to my kids than to hear me say "thank you" to them for some way they have helped me, a picture they have made or a time when they have made me proud. I can see the glow of my appreciation in their faces. How much more would it mean if I took the time to write them their own personal thank you note? When thankfulness is a natural part of our conversation, it will more easily become a part of their conversation.
How about for you? What do you do to instill gratitude in your kids?
Melanie is a Shine! Parenting Guru. She blogs about the challenges and blessings of life with her four kids at her blog, tales from the crib .