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Teaching thankfulness to the kiddos

Chantal Standafer

As time passes and we quickly approach Thanksgiving (how is it only a week away??), we’ll continue with our thankfulness theme. Having previously looked at having our own thankful attitude and finding your best mom friend, this week we’ll look at teaching gratitude to our little ones.

With a very strong-willed and vocal 2-year-old running around our house, we frequently hear “I want,” followed by more “I want.” Oh, and throw in a bunch of “Mom! Mom!” It’s easy to get bogged down by the demands. (And yes, I need to take my own advice and be thankful that she can express what she wants.) But we’ve found that a great way to break out of the toddler “want” cycle is to teach about being thankful. As we work on instilling this concept in our littles, here are some things we do to teach them:

  • Thankful list: We have been teaching “please” and “thank you” in relation to asking for items, help, etc since before Gaby’s first birthday. And this lay a good foundation for her understanding the concept of being thankful. But now we’re taking it further. Instead of just saying thank you when she receives something for which she has asked, we now engage her in conversation. We ask her what she is thankful for. And oftentimes we get a list of things that are not related to that day’s activities. But that’s okay. We’re getting her thinking about what she’s done and seen during that day (and days prior) and vocalize the good things in her life.

  • Reading books: They love reading, and it’s a great way to keep them quiet and entertained for a bit. Plus, it is a great way to illustrate concepts to little ones. One of our seasonal favorites is Happy Thanksgiving, Curious George, where on the last page George is so excited to share what he is thankful for. While the rest of the book goes over the different things that go into Thanksgiving Day prep, this last part is a perfect illustration of the previous point. It’s a wonderful way to reinforce what we’re teaching and practicing at home.

  • Giving to those who need: Each year, we participate in Boxes of Love, a project to help provide Thanksgiving meals to families in need. This year I took Gaby with me to the grocery store to purchase the items needed to fill the box. As we left to go to the store, I explained to her that we are fortunate to have food to eat, at which point we talked about the snacks she likes. I continued to say that we help others who don’t have as much and need help, in this case by providing food for them. And I got her involved in finding the items in the stores and putting them in the cart (I did have to catch the cans of food that she was pitching into the basket, but well, we’re still working on being gentle). This is one step in helping her think of the positives, of what she does have, and being thankful for that.

In teaching her, it’s a great reminder to myself to practice being thankful. It will take some time for her to fully grasp the concept. But she’s learning quickly and will probably surprise me with her understanding of it way before I expect her to do so. Maybe she’ll even learn to replace “I want” with “I would like”!

How are you teaching your kids to be thankful?