My kids are very good at Thanksgiving. They understand the meaning of the holiday and know how to send out the appropriate "gratitude" vibe that day. But now that the holiday is over, they have turned their sights toward Christmas, and I can't help but feel a little sad at how quickly their "gratitude" has transformed into "holiday shopping list."
Don't get me wrong — my girls are really good kids. It's just that I wish they would be grateful for the things they have all year long. And I wish that my suggestion that they spend more time being grateful rather than wishing for more didn't sound like such a guilt trip.
So this year I've done a little research on the best ways to encourage gratitude without sounding like the proverbial "broken record" of parenting. Here are some strategies I hope will encourage my kids to grow the seed of gratitude from a one-day event to a life-long habit.
Practice gratitude. It may sound ridiculous, but experts suggest that being grateful is something that many of us should practice on a daily basis. Around Thanksgiving, kids might make a gratitude wreath or share in class what they are grateful for, so they are thinking about it and know just what to say. But why not keep that spirit of gratitude going all season — or even all year long? You can start by just saying "thank you" more often — to each other, to the clerk at the store, to your kids' teachers — and encouraging your kids to do the same.
Encourage generosity. A Harris Interactive survey noted in Family Circle magazine found that kids who were more grateful for what they had were also more generous, even if they were fairly materialistic. Flip that idea around and you could expect that kids who are encouraged to be generous to those in need will also be more grateful for the things they already have.
Set a grateful example. As with all things parenting-related, kids will hear our words, but follow our actions. So telling them to be grateful is meaningless if you are always pining over the next techy gadget or fashion accessory. Show your kids how grateful you are for all that you have and hold off on writing your own holiday gift list for a while. Instead, spend a few minutes each evening talking about what you appreciated that day, and encourage your kids to do the same. It might be big stuff like family, health and friends — or it might be something smaller, like a kind word from a stranger, that made your day. Sharing these moments with your family will help you all to appreciate them more.