With the Christmas season upon us, it is natural for children to imagine what gifts they might receive. At a time when so many ads are targeted towards children for toys, games, and “things,” how do we teach children to be grateful for what they have? For more than just things? An attitude of gratitude can be helpful to a child’s well-being throughout their life. Understanding thankfulness, and truly being able to recognize their many blessings, helps establish a foundation for a joyful disposition.
Christi Schwalk, first grade teacher, and Susan Dodgion, transitional kindergarten teacher at The Christ School (TCS), share their ideas on ways to help establish an “attitude of gratitude.”
Christi Schwalk says parents should “Model, model, model gratitude! Children are always watching their parents (and other adults) and learn from our actions. Make a point to tell your family why you are thankful for them. Purposefully speak about who you are thankful for in your life – Sunday school teachers, classroom teachers, mail carriers, sanitation workers – anyone who makes your life better. Then, teach your children ways to express that thankfulness. Can you leave a note? Give a cold water bottle on a hot day to someone who works outside? These are easy ways for children to show gratitude.”
Christi suggests that parents use the phrase “enough” with their child. For example, “you have enough stuffed animals,” or “you have enough candy, you don’t need more.” “It sounds simple, but using that word early makes an impact later when you talk about how others do not have enough. We use the rule: “get one, give one” at our house. Get a Barbie doll for your birthday, give one that you are not using to someone who may not have one.” These conversations open the door (and a child’s heart) to a spirit of generosity and compassion.
“Serve together as a family and, serve often. Helping others in the community shifts the focus from what you get to what you can do. In the book of James, God calls us to take our faith and do something with it (James 2:14-26).
Our family plays High, Low, Change, Thankful at dinner. What was a high for your day? A low? What would you change about the day? Who or what are you thankful for today? We often talk about how we can express that thanks.
Point out that God blesses everyone in different ways for His purposes. There will always be people who have more than you and people who have less. Our job is to use our gifts, no matter how big or small, to help others.”
Susan Dodgion agrees with Christi. “Model thankfulness in your home. Adults can thank each other for dinner, for doing chores and everyday things we do for each other. Children don’t always understand what they have. Be sure to draw attention to them. Not so much things, but family, teachers, the love that surrounds them, pets, or the great school they attend.” Susan continues, “Remember to thank God for things all day long. For example, “Thank you, God, for this day.” “Thank you, God, for my comfortable bed. Every moment is a teachable moment.”
Being thankful and showing gratitude with happiness is a trait children will learn and reflect in their own thoughts and actions. Recognizing the many ways God has blessed each of us goes a long way for our happiness and that of our children!