How to teach children to be thankful

How to teach preschoolers to be thankful.

What does it mean to be thankful?  That is a big word for preschoolers.  How do we teach them to say thank you, show thankfulness and mean it?  From the time that children can speak we teach them to say thank you.  It becomes expected and automatic but does it mean anything?
I think that in order to teach children to be grateful we have to model it.  Just like everything else in their world they have to see it to believe it.

November is a great time to teach gratefulness.  Here are a few practical steps to teach your young children.
1.  Give to others often.  Find out who is in need and what they need, involve your children in blessing a family.  Make cards and gifts that do not cost any money.  Allow your children to give the cards and gifts to the family.  Reflect with your children on how it made them feel to bless others and how they thought that family felt to receive those blessings.
2.  Model gratitude in your everyday life.  When you are at the grocery store, a restaurant, with your spouse.  Let your children hear your say thank you and why you are thankful.  Then talk about it with them.  Say things such as:  "wasn't that nice of the grocer to bag our groceries for us and help us load the cart?" or "Didn't that waitress have such nice manners when she brought us our food"  Remember our children are always watching and learning from us.  If we have an ungrateful attitude they will pick up on that.
3.  Teach them how to express their gratitude.  In the hustle of life I have failed to do this lately.  I haven't taught my own children the importance of thank you cards and notes.  I haven't taken the time to sit down and model being thankful in this way.  I think this is a skill that is slowly dying today and needs to be revisited.  Who doesn't love to receive a thank you note?  It makes what you did seem like that much more of a blessing.  Even small toddlers can draw a picture or scribble some lines to show their thanks.
4.  Talk about your blessings.  Sometimes children forget all that they have to be thankful for.  They are born very self centered and we need to teach them to look outside of themselves to see all that they have to be thankful for.  This is also an area that you can model for them.  We have a thankful tree every November and we write on leaves the things that we are thankful for.  It starts out
 generic but as the month goes on it becomes much more specific and thoughtful.  We also have love letters in February.  Each of my children has a mailbox by their door.  Through out the month we write love letters to each other and put it in their boxes.  The letters start out with I love you because.... It is a fun way to show why we appreciate each other.
5.  Honor and love your family!  This is a biggie for me.  I feel like today with our busy schedules and all of our activities that we forget to stop and honor our family.  We need to visit our loved ones, call them, skype, facetime.  Whatever you need to do and teach our children to do the same.  Our family is what makes us who we are and we need to remember that and stay in touch.

I hope these simple steps to gratitude will help you focus on what is important this year and maybe remember it for years to come.  Have a blessed holiday with your families and friends!

Rachel Supalla

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