Lessons for Giving Thanks

How does a child learn gratitude?

Through guidance and practice. See below for a family activity that tells the story of Thanksgiving and encourages the sharing of one’s heart.

It begins at home with you as their teacher.

We all want our children to have a grateful heart.  Starting at an early age there are many “Please” and “Thank you” prompts given throughout the day in an effort to teach our children manners and gratitude. In teaching gratitude, we also hope to teach empathy. Children are given the opportunity to learn about other people’s feelings when they learn when and how to express gratitude.

We need to be diligent and patient in our efforts to teach our children gratitude.

Children are not born grateful; it is a learned behavior. It is a tricky concept for toddlers and preschoolers because they are egocentric by nature. It isn’t easy (or natural) for a young child to say, “Thank you” because they do not realize how their behavior affects other people or the impact their act of gratitude has on the future. They are preoccupied with living in the moment. Children need to be taught how and why to say, “Please” and “Thank you.”

You can help your child understand the concept of gratitude. 

Let your child see it in action.  And reinforce the idea of gratitude frequently by telling your child and your spouse, “Thank you” when they say or do something kind.  During Grace, my children now thank God for the meals I prepare for them (and understand that many other children go unfed). Their expressed gratitude is a direct result of hearing my husband model gratitude by thanking me each night for preparing dinner and sharing how grateful he is for it.

Explain the importance of acknowledging someone’s kind efforts. Grandparents desire and appreciate thank you notes. Give your child the opportunity to write or draw a thank you note to a family member or friend for a received gift. Also, share thank you notes you write and receive with your children.  Explain to them how it makes you feel to both write and receive one.

It is our job to teach and model how to give thanks. 

The more your child sees and hears you thanking people for their kindness, the more likely it is that your child will model that behavior.

There is more than one way to say, “Thank you.” Offer your child choices and suggestions how to express gratitude. It could be a phone call, a picture or a note, or even just a smile or a hug in a teachable moment.

There are many picture books that teach lessons on gratitude. Find a book with a gratitude theme then read and discuss it together.

Involve your child in a service project. Encourage your child to be a part of giving to others less fortunate. They will feel good about themselves when they see how their efforts positively affect another person’s life.

Celebrate Thanksgiving using these Thanksgiving Story Cards from iMOM. This fun family activity will serve as an important reminder to give thanks in all circumstances.

Print and place these loving Thanksgiving lunchbox notes from iMOM in your child’s lunchbox or backpack.

Grateful people tend to be happier and more optimistic. 

I encourage you:

  • To let someone know you are thankful for them and why.
  • Take turns with your child making a list of the things each of you are grateful for in life.
  • Be a role model of grateful behavior. Let your children witness you saying “Thank you.”
  • Put one of these iMom cards in your child’s lunch or backpack.

Please share below how your family teaches and models gratitude.

2 Responses to Lessons for Giving Thanks

  1. judy Lipson says:

    Great article Denise. Many good tips to guide children.

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