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Teaching children to be thankful is a rewarding effort

  • McClatchy-Tribune
  • Published Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2012, at 8:49 p.m.
  • Updated Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2012, at 9:09 p.m.

Thanksgiving Day prompts us all to be thankful for the wonderful things each of us has. Throughout my 26 years of being a dad, I’ve learned to express thanks and gratitude for something every day, whether big or small. And I’ve tried hard to instill that same sense of thanks in each of my six children. Teaching kids to be thankful is not always the easiest task, and it doesn’t happen overnight, but if you follow my tips, you’re sure to be headed in the right direction.

Lead by example

First things first, it’s extremely important to lead by example. Allow your children to watch you express gratitude to a friend or a neighbor for their kind acts of generosity. It’s also important to thank your child when they act in a positive way or do something special for you. Your acknowledgement will make them want to do more good things to receive those special thanks.

What are you thankful for?

Traditionally, families discuss things they’re thankful for around the dinner table on Thanksgiving. However, I would encourage each of you to expand this tradition outside of November. If it works for you to mention one thing you’re thankful for every day, that’s great. If not, make sure you make a special time for all family members to share what they’re thankful for once a week or once a month. Turning this Thanksgiving tradition into a routine will encourage your children to reflect more often upon what they’re truly thankful for.

Do nice things for others

Doing nice things for other people is one of the greatest things we can do, as parents, to instill gratitude and thanks in our children. It’s the simple acts of kindness that allow us to experience thanks and gratitude from others. Bake a loaf of bread for your nanny along with a special card your child can help decorate, let your child give the UPS man a bag of homemade cookies along with a “thanks for delivering our packages,” etc. Brainstorm with your children ways in which they can do nice things for others and then work through that list together.

Encourage helping

Having your child help around the house will ensure they don’t take you or mom for granted. If you always clear the table or sort the laundry or pick up your children’s toys then they won’t know what effort each activity takes. Encourage them to help you with chores or give them a couple of their own chores — that way you can give thanks and appreciation for their help, and they will give you thanks and appreciation for all that you do to keep the house running smoothly.

Remember teaching children to be thankful doesn’t happen overnight; it’s a process. Be patient and take it one day at a time trying to express gratitude at every opportunity you receive.

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