Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Grateful Hearts {Teaching Gratitude to our Children}

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November and December are months where most of us stop and consciously pause to reflect on the things we are thankful for. Most notably at Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner, over hoards of turkey or ham, dressing, and sides. This time of year is a great time to openly celebrate with our family how fortunate we really are. I love this time of year for that very reason.

As parents though, my husband and I are largely concerned about instilling real gratitude into are children all year around.We are personally grateful for so much; a healthy family, a warm bed, food in our fridge, clean water, and the list goes on. The basic necessities that can often be taken for granted. We see ourselves as lottery winners of sorts, to be born in a country such as ours with the freedom, opportunities, amenities, and overall abundance living in America provides.

I've been told that raising children with a grateful heart starts with self-awareness. In a culture where the Hiltons, Kardashians, and Jersey Shore cast are among the role models exposed to our children, this can be hard. Extravagance, materialism and self-entitlement is the constant theme being sold in main stream media. Having excessive value on wealth, power and popularity does not only promote an inferior view children have of themselves, but also a loss of real genuine perspective.

Perspective can always adopt gratitude. Gratitude always parents joy.

Having nice things is of course nice, but truly finding meaning and fulfillment in the most simplistic of things fosters real joy.

Expecting and encouraging gratitude with our children is really two different things. Instilling gratitude in our children is an on-going work in progress. Intentionally practicing gratitude, modeling gratitude, and spreading love and generosity as a family can really make a difference. Here are a just a few things that I've found that can be done through the year to do just that.

1. Every birthday and each Christmas have children choose one of their older toys to donate to charity for each new toy they receive. Then let them be apart of the actual delivering to the family or charity.

2. Participate as a family in a giving/angel tree program where you pick a child or family to buy gifts for. Make sure your child learns about the child they are buying for and then allow them to do the shopping. If possible be apart of the delivering so they can further feel the joy that comes from the giving. (a place that does this is my church,

3. Sign up as a family to feed a family for Thanksgiving either by putting a box together or serving in a place like Gospel City Gospel Mission downtown. (Crossroads also does this)

4. Make cookies or crafts together and then take them to a nursing home. Your kids will be a welcome sight there.

5. Have your children write thank-you notes often to people in their life like their teacher, the mailman, their grandparents, even the Easter Bunny after he delivers the loot. 

6. Most importantly model gratitude. Tell your kids you love them, tell them why and tell them often. Let them see you writing thank-you notes, spreading love, and being generous. 

See you later in the week for a fun Thanksgiving grateful craft!

Recommended Reading:  (amazing site!)

Have the Guts to Do it Right: Raising Grateful and Responsible Children in an Era of Indulgence by Sherri Moskowitz Noga

Growing Grateful Kids: Teaching Them to Appreciate God in Ordinary Places by Susie Larsonpost signature

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