PARENTING TIPS: Instilling thankfulness through service

by Brittany Gilbert

At Maumelle High School, I teach a class called Leadership and Service Learning.

Some of the activities include learning about character and even earning “pillars of character.”

Students earn these pillars by doing things to improve themselves and others. For instance, they can send a care package to a soldier and earn citizenship, or they can complete hours of community service for responsibility, etc.

Planning for this class has sparked the thought “What if we teach our children from a young age about thankfulness?” It’s a challenge to teach thankfulness to students who are almost adults, but if they grow up in an atmosphere of gratitude, it’s an easier concept for them to grasp.

Generally, we live in a world of instant gratification. We want the newest version of everything, and we want it now. Our children are no exception. We want them to have the best, and as a result they experience the same displeasure when they don’t get it. We call this “first world problems.” So how can you teach your child to be thankful? Here are a few tips I’ve gathered:

  • Start early with a simple “thank you” and “please.”
  • Don’t give them everything they want. Do they really need the newest and most advanced toy?
  • A lot of parents are great at having their children go through toys and give away any they don’t play with anymore, but try having your children pick a toy that they still enjoy (maybe not their favorite though) and teach them the lesson that it’s good to give our best to others, not just our leftovers.
  • Adopt a family. Spend time with them and have them over to your house. Take them meals, clothes, whatever they may need.
  • Take your children with you to serve at a soup kitchen, dream center or church. While volunteering, talk to them about the importance of not only giving money and resources, but also giving your time.

I read a story shortly after the Moore, Okla., tornado about a dad who took his young daughter with him to help serve the community. Several people criticized him for exposing his daughter to such tragedy and loss. He even second guessed himself and wondered if he was doing the right thing. However, after watching his daughter around the victims, helping them through their situation, he was reminded of why it was important for her to see it in the first place.

It’s OK to see sad things. It helps teach you to be thankful. Thankfulness needs to be taught. If we don’t teach our kids, who will?