It has always been my priority to teach my children "gratitude attitude." We are so fortunate to have a nice home, all the electronics we could possibly need, access to a good education and the ability to give back to others. At the very "heart" or center of gratitude is teaching them a genuine sense of appreciation as soon as they can walk and talk because they learn best from example.
Genuine appreciation comes from the heart. Saying "thank you" when you don't really mean it will sound hollow and feel disingenuous. Children who see their parents being genuinely thankful will emulate what they observe. Teaching gratitude also evolves as your children grow up. Here are ways you can instill a sense of appreciation with your children:
- Bedtime Thankfuls: When my children were little they would pile onto our bed before being tucked in for the night. Everyone would take turns saying what he or she was thankful for. This also helped us learn more about what everyone experienced that day and often turned into heartfelt conversations. My husband and I also participated and our children gained perspective about what our day was like as working parents.
- Dinner Gratitude: During special family dinners, we created the tradition of having each child give a spontaneous prayer of thanks before the meal. We learned that even though some children are shy they love the momentary spotlight. Before you know it they will spout off a long list of thanks, some of them silly, but this brings a ton of smiles to the table. Plus it always makes me appreciate these moments that seem to go by in a flash.
- Custom Thank You Cards: Keep your eye out for great artwork your children create throughout the year. I scan my children's favorite art pieces and create custom "Thank-You" cards. I print out a set for each child to use whenever they need to send a note of appreciation. My aunt has saved every single one of their cards.
- Charity Choice: As your children get older, have them select a charity they are interested in to either donate their time or money. Giving back to a cause is a way to internalize gratitude. They can learn to raise money through a bake sale or volunteer time at a pet shelter or hospital. First hand experience is the best teacher.
- Gratitude Attitude: For the first time this year, my family traveled to Mexico to build homes for the impoverished. This was a life changing experience for my two teenage daughters. They appreciated the transformation we created for these families and fully internalized what they are grateful for in their own lives.
Teaching your children the "heart" of gratitude is best taught through example. I handwrite thank you notes whenever I receive a gift or thoughtful gesture. My husband and I still love to hold an occasional "Bedtime Thankfuls" even though our children are all teens now. And most of all we, strive to set an example by providing enriching experiences that underscore the many blessings in our lives that we are thankful for on a daily basis.
How do you teach your children the "heART" of appreciation?
Tina Case is a Yahoo! Shine Parenting Guru. She is grateful to Yahoo! for providing this space to share her thoughts on parenting and wisdom from her 21+ years of being a mom. When she's not busy sneaking candy from her children's trick or treat bags she is busy as a professional photographer and freelance writer. You can find more of her work at Tina Case Photography and Parent Grapevine.