Teaching children thankfulness

Kellie Bishop
Latest posts by Kellie Bishop (see all)

by Kellie Bishop

Thanksgiving is just around the corner and many families have already begun the process of planning their holiday events. While holiday gatherings are highly anticipated by most, the meaning behind all the food and gifts is often overlooked. 

We now live in a culture that is vastly different than the one most of us grew up in. Life is fast-paced and the holiday season seems to be the most hectic time of the year. It often seems impossible to slow down during the months of November and December long enough to ensure children are learning and enjoying the true meaning of the season. 

Teaching thankfulness does not have to be complicated and you may even find that your holiday season is more enjoyable by slowing down and practicing a few activities to instill the thankful spirit you wish for in your children.

During the month of November, be thankful. Children are naturally self-centered. A child who has been blessed with a loving family, loyal friends and countless possessions does not always appreciate what they have. One way to help them realize this is to have a white board or chalkboard at home and each day all family members write something they are thankful for. This will allow all family members to not only reflect on their own blessings, but also the blessings within their home and family.

You can expand on this idea by giving back to others based on the blessings your family identifies. If your child is thankful for the food that is always available in your home, you could take them to volunteer at a soup kitchen. It does not have to be extravagant, but a simple act such as serving the underprivileged can further instill gratitude in your child for the things they often take for granted.

Similarly, a friend of mine stocks a variety of thank you cards for the month of November and her children take 10 minutes each evening for the entire month to write a note to a relative, friend, teacher, doctor, etc. to say thank you. This allows the child to identify those who enrich his or her life all year and say thank you for how that individual has blessed them.

As Christmas approaches, be giving.

Children have come to expect expensive gifts and that mentality has many negative effects on their social development. When a 3-year-old receives a tablet that costs as much as a mortgage payment, what will they expect as a gift the following year? The expectations for gifts are increased at earlier ages which leads to a generation of children with higher expectations, less gratitude and less versatility. If a child is taught they will always be given the best whether they earn it or not, this leads to unrealistic expectations later in life and the inability to be flexible and content.

However, emphasizing the thought behind a gift can help combat this issue. Instead of emphasizing the gift itself, highlight how kind it is of the giver to give the child such a nice gift.

It is also important to instill giving back in children. Many of my relatives and friends go through their children’s toys with them in November and they help the child choose toys to donate to underprivileged children. This teaches the child to appreciate their blessings and pay it forward by giving to others. It also limits the clutter that can surface in your home during the holidays which is a win in my book!

Similar to the thank you notes during the Thanksgiving season, I have heard of several parents who make their children write thank you notes to those who gave them Christmas gifts before they are able to use the gift they received. Writing the note allows the child to reflect on the kindness that was shown to them and allows them to express the gratitude that may have otherwise not been realized.

Children are very impressionable and though they lack innate appreciation for what they have, it is easy to teach them thankfulness and gratitude. Instilling these concepts in your children from a young age will allow them to be more versatile and adaptable adolescents and adults while also ensuring they have the aptitude to give back and make a difference in the world.