Thanksgiving is almost here and it’s only natural to be thinking about gratitude. As a parent, wouldn’t it be great to see your child keep the spirit of Thanksgiving going well past the holiday season? I definitely would! And when you stop to consider just how much instant gratification kids have come to expect, practicing gratitude is something that requires parental guidance. Here are three things you can do day-to-day to make gratitude a priority and teach your child to do the same.
1. Try to keep complaints in check:
As a parent, hearing your child complain about little things can be frustrating, especially if you see how much he or she has to be thankful for. It’s hard to resist launching into a list of all the privileges available to your child to prove your point, but this can backfire because once your child feels judged it will be hard to get any message across. Try to curb complaints by telling your child you hear they’re frustrated, but that you trust they will find a way to deal with their challenge (even if you really don’t see it as a challenge at all!). Not only will you end the conversation much sooner, but you will send the message that your child is responsible for coping. In the long run, this cuts down on the habit of complaining because your child knows how you will respond.
2. Say you’re thankful every day:
Gratitude is contagious, and it’s definitely something you want spreading through your family. If you get into the habit of saying you are thankful it will make a strong impression on your child. You are always in the spotlight and kids of all ages pay attention to the things you say and do even when it’s not directed at them (and even if it seems like you’re being actively ignored!). Start small by adding in heartfelt thank yous throughout the day and making a point to mention things you are grateful for. It may be as simple as mentioning someone who let you have the right-of-way while driving or a helpful salesperson who pointed you in the right direction. In general, we are far more likely to remember and talk about things that did not go well so making it a priority to discuss things you’re thankful for will have a big impact on your child.
3. Model generous behavior and notice when your child does the same:
An amazing way to show gratitude is to give to others. Again, your actions and intentions have a tremendous impact on your child and you are always in the spotlight modeling your behavior. This can be as quick and effortless as a genuine smile given to a passer-by or as thoughtful as an act of charity that was planned in advance. Encouraging your child to behave in a similar way and noticing when he or she does will reinforce this pattern and keep it going strong after the turkey is served. If your family does give to charity during Thanksgiving, see if there are ways to keep helping throughout the year. Involve your kids so they remain aware of the need to help others. Not only is it fantastic for your child to give to others, but this practice will also help your son or daughter recognize what they have to be grateful for.
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