Nurture Thankfulness in Your Child

Written by Brenda Nixon

family_nuturethanksAmong the early words you teach your tot are “thank you.” Young children need prompts like, “What do you say to Aunt Becky?” Hopefully, over time it becomes an automatic response. But parents need to continue teaching an attitude of thanks even to teenagers. As you celebrate the busy holiday season, utilize every moment as an opportunity to nurture thankfulness in your child. Incorporate these free and simple ways into your family life:

  • Live the lesson
    It has been said that we’re always teaching . . . sometimes we use words. Remember to say “thank you” to others, but more importantly live a life of appreciation. Your children are watching their first and most influential teacher!
  • Notice nature
    Encourage your child to appreciate the inspiration that surrounds him. Marvel at the power of the wind, the immensity of the ocean, the perfection of a snowflake, the night sky, or the rugged beauty of a mountain range. I’ve reminded my girls of the saying of Goeth, “Nature is the living, visible garment of God.”
  • Convert attitude into action
    A small gesture, such as a smile, can lighten the day of the waitress who hands your child a glass of milk or a hug for the teacher is always welcome. When a child empties the dishwasher it is an action of appreciation for home and food. Thankfulness is also expressed through homemade cards and drawings. To appreciate their classroom teachers, my girls and I always made little gifts for them at the holidays.
  • Discover dictionary descriptions
    Although we have our own terms to explain thankfulness it helps to see new definitions. Go to the library and see what a variety of dictionaries say about the word. I like what The Webster’s Dictionary says, “Impressed with a sense of kindness received” because it takes the focus off a material possession and puts it on an attitude.
  • Gather great quotes
    In researching for this article I found websites that offer all types of quotes. A humorous one about thanks comes from Woody Allen, “I am thankful for laughter, except when milk comes out of my nose.”
  • Contrast your family with folks less fortunate
    Help your child see that there are those in your community who aren’t as blessed: families without homes, people who are sad and living alone, or those who must go to food kitchens to eat. When my daughters were young, one of our family traditions was to serve a meal to the homeless. My husband, two daughters, and I spent one evening at a rescue mission every Autumn. After seeing the faces of those accepting a plate of food and their expressions of thanks my daughters quickly appreciated going back home to their safe, cozy bedrooms.
  • Make a medley of thankfulness
    Grab a pile of old magazines. Encourage your child to look through the pages and cut out pictures of things they are thankful for. Glue these on one page, overlapping pictures. Soon your child will have a visual reminder of the blessings in his life.
  • Pen a poem of thankfulness
    Together with your child, try to write words that rhyme with thanks, gratitude or thankful. This can be a fun, language learning time also.
  • Practice gratitude permanently
    Showing thanks and appreciation need not end with this time of year. I believe letter writing is becoming a lost art. Help your child write thank you notes for their Christmas gifts. Preschoolers can dictate to you their gratitude or express thanks by drawing a picture of their appreciation for their gift-giver. Find opportunities during this upcoming year to reinforce your lesson. For more ideas on teaching children about good manners and attitudes visit Manners of the Heart.

As a parent, I hope my children learn to be thankful by the way I live my life before them. After all, as William Bennett said in his book, The Moral Compass, “Sometimes we need to remind ourselves that thankfulness is indeed a virtue.”

© 2002 Brenda Nixon

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One Response to “Nurture Thankfulness in Your Child”

  • artria says:

    My son tends to be shy or clam up when prompted to thank strangers. I just point out his actual contentment out loud andhow thankful I am. I try not to push my kids to be physical, but that a simple smile or hand shake is sufficient. Forcing it wont help them, but can hinder their ability to own their thoughts and feelings during a time when their brains are still developing self control.

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