Teaching thankfulness

by Katelin Whiddon

Let’s face it, we live in a spoiled society. Many of the poorest families in America would be considered wealthy in many countries across the world.

If you’ve ever traveled to an impoverished country for a mission trip or some other sort of service project, you quickly understand just how blessed (and spoiled) we are as Americans.

I’ll never forget children I encountered in a small village in Mexico — with dirt floors, no toys and absolutely horrible living conditions — being some of the happiest children who were hugely grateful for everything and every opportunity they had. It’s sad that we are surrounded by so much and take it for granted every day.

I’ll be the first to admit, my children have a lot of stuff! Clothes, toys, colors, books and more — just STUFF everywhere! Yet how many of those things do they play with on a repeated basis? And how many more children even near our homes have next to nothing?

We have tried working with our children on being thankful for what they have and what others do for them. From the time they started speaking, we have been encouraging them to say simple things such as “please,” “thank you,” “you’re welcome” and addressing people as “sir” or “ma’am.”

Sadly, these are quickly becoming words of the past in our society. When children come to our office and use simple manners, it is refreshing, and we try to commend the children and parents for their behavior.

Often times we have to de-clutter our girls’ toys. My 5-year-old has always responded well to providing things to children who don’t have toys. We can give her a box and ask her to fill it with toys she doesn’t want anymore to give to other children who don’t have any.

I remember coming home from work the first time she had gotten a plastic bag and filled it with things without being asked because she wanted some other boys and girls to have toys. Teaching our children these simple acts can go a long way.

We often have so many things, we don’t appreciate them. I always felt like my parents provided for me growing up, but sometimes things were just not necessary — designer jeans, Dr. Martens boots (I’m showing my age here). I remember the items that I paid for myself being ones I REALLY took care of. I was learning the value of the dollar. It is important that we teach our children that they can’t have everything they ask for and at the same time, teach them to be thankful for what they do have.

Children are so impressionable and soak up everything — like little sponges. Seeing parents be thankful and kind to others, care for things, share with others and give to the less fortunate may leave a lifelong impression. Teaching these small acts can leave big impacts. 


A native of Conway, Katelin Whiddon is a family nurse practitioner at Central Arkansas Pediatrics. She and her husband, Daniel, have two daughters. A graduate of the University of Central Arkansas, she has her bachelor’s and master’s degrees.