In our world of instant gratification and distraction, it can be hard for kids to take the time to realize how good they have it, how much they have, and to be grateful for it. And it can be hard for you as well, as a parent, to be an example of gratitude.For Thanksgiving this year I wanted to share tips that I have learned along the way in parenthood. No, my kids didn’t come with an instruction manual either. These are some ways that are working in our family and that I’ve seen work in others that will help you be an example to your kids and teach your children to be grateful, respectful, and have the desire to help others in their own family as well as in their community and eventually around the world.
Four Ways to Raise Grateful Children
1. Let Them Give
If it’s not a routine yet, make it a regular part of your year to collect unused toys, household goods, outgrown clothes, etc around your home to donate. Do this together, not while the kids are out. If you know of a family in need, deliver a box or a few items yourself and bring the kids along. There’s nothing like seeing who your donations are actually helping and knowing that they really truly are helping someone.
If you don’t know of anyone personally, there are plenty of programs accepting donations that can use the items or sell them to help others. Explain to your child how their items will help someone and let them come with you to the drop off center or watch the truck pick up the items.
Some kids love to clear out their space and will want to give up everything!
If they want to give, let them! If it’s something you really think they should keep, tell them why you’d like them to keep it (it had better be an heirloom or an expensive item you could never replace that your asking them to keep) and ask them to think on it for a day. If it’s possible for you to part with it, do it. If not explain your reasons, but remove it from your child’s room if they still want to give it up and store it the garage or attic. Don’t discourage giving and de-cluttering!
|Direction to this simple Thankfulness Pumpkin Pie craft here|
2. Enlist Their Help
Volunteer together or with a group. Any type of volunteering can cultivate the giving spirit by experiencing the joy of helping an individual or the community, actively making a difference they can see. Some ways to help, clean up a state park or beach, serve at a community kitchen, food drive, or food pantry. visit a nursing home, work on a community project such as beautifying a school or community center. There are so many ways for kids and families to be involved in doing good; a simple search on the internet can give you a ton more ideas.
If you’re kids want to clean up trash, let them! I am prepared with bags, gloves, and hand sanitizer when we go out because my kids have done park clean up with the Jr. Rangers program and Save Our Shores beach clean up. We all teach our kids to care for the Earth, yet I hear so many parents telling their kids not to touch that trash. Let encourage clean up, even if it isn’t theirs and show them how to do it safely.
3. Clean Together
Speaking of encouraging clean up, cleaning together as a family fosters a sense of community, and an attitude of caring for not only your child’s own things, but everyone’s. Pick up toys, put away clothes, make beds, etc, all together as a family. This is great time to spend together bonding, connecting, and learning that everyone helps each other in a family. This extends to helping others outside the home as your child grows and becomes involved in the community. Being respectful of each others things and space, and helping one another grows generosity, a community spirit, and gratitude in your children for their own family, and what they have.
If you’re telling your kids to go put their own toys away by themselves because it’s their mess, think about the message that sends: “Don’t clean up after others or help them, everyone has to take care of their own”.
Instead lets be an example of a helping, community serving attitude. Yes, my kids need to clean up after themselves, but I’ll say “I’ll help you clean up your toys if you get started.” If my child gets distracted and stops, I’ll remind him gently, “I said I would help you, not do it all by myself. Lets get this cleaned up so we can do ___. If you don’t want to help me, than you’ll get to do it by yourself.”
The kids will sometimes whine, “why do I have to clean this mess up? I didn’t do it!” ask them (respectfully) “Do I only make dinner for me? Do I only do my own laundry? No, we help each other in this family.”
|Easy mini pumpkin pies kids love|
I suggest cleaning up each others rooms together each night before getting ready for bed. Give yourselves a little time for examining finds (a toy your child hasn’t seen in a while), and it’s the perfect time for talking and enjoying each others company. Think of it as a fun bonding time you have together each night, rather than rushed and stressed. Your child will love the time and that you care enough to help him or her with cleaning up. However, if seems to take too long or your child gets too distracted to finish, you can also set a timer or incentive. For example, “if we get this done by 7:30, we’ll still have time to read before bed.”
Can I do this with a teen?
Of course, the younger you start, the easier this will be. It may take some getting used to with an older child. But, I’ve started this with a teen and continued for the three years she lived with me. At first she acted like I was invading her space, and then as if she was indifferent, but she finally admitted that she enjoyed the one on one time we had to chat and the new cleanliness of her otherwise uncontrollable room. She told me she hadn’t know where to even start, so the task of cleaning was overwhelming and she was grateful that less of her things got stepped on and broken now. It also helped develop some organizational skills that carried over into school and into her life.
4. Count Your Blessings
|Easy Beautiful Thanksgiving Turkey Fruit Platter Here|