Momservation: It’s understandable why kids have a hard time with the concept of gratitude when there’re yams and green been casserole on their plate.
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There’s a word we use around our house that was coined by my nine year-old daughter, Whitney, when she was three years old.
“Preeshful.” As in being both appreciative and thankful for “Mommy, Daddy, Santa Claus and watching TV.”
I’ll never forget that year I was determined to make sure my two young children’s 4th and 3rd Thanksgiving would set them down a path of gratitude and appreciation for what they have.
I started by asking my oldest child, Logan, what he was thankful for.
“What’s thankful?” my four year-old asked.
Once I explained that it is to be appreciative – or happy for what you have – his response made it clear that preschoolers live in the moment.
Looking down at the snack in his hand Logan said, “I’m thankful for Goldfish.”
“Anything else?” I asked.
“Momma, Dadda, Kyber, and Whitney.” I was happy to hear him include his sister in his simple list of things that made his world complete. Although, he did put the dog before her.
Of course, I knew his spunky sister would have a more detailed list. “I’m preeshful for my toys, my princess dresses, my babies, and my Nemo bag.” Without needing further prodding she continued. “I’m preeshful for Mommy, Daddy, Logan, Kyber, Nana, Pa, Grampa, Gammy….” she went on to list every member of our extended family including second cousins.
Whitney’s list continued with watching TV and Santa because, “Santa can bring me a new baby when another one gets broken. But I already have a lot.”
Exactly! I seized on the moment to point out to the kids that they did have a lot. “Did you know some children have no babies and no Goldfish?”
Logan and Whitney both shook their heads in total disbelief.
This is where as a former 5th grade teacher, the educator in me wanted to bring the day’s successful lesson home with a project that would illustrate and introduce the piggy-back concept of helping those who are less fortunate.
Should I have my children select some of their toys to donate for Christmas? No, I could barely get Logan and Whitney to share with each other, let alone a perfect stranger.
Take them with me to work in a soup kitchen? No, still too young and a supervision nightmare.
Distribute coats and blankets to the homeless? Probably not the safest idea to cruise depressed areas of the city alone with two young kids in the car.
In the end, we adopted a family through a local church who had young children also. The kids enjoyed picking out a new toy for them that was a replica of a favorite at home (which helped avoid the envy of buying a new toy they couldn’t have).
To this day all we have to do is mention the word preeshful to remind ourselves to quit being self-absorbed or selfish, practice gratitude for what we have, and sensitivity to those less fortunate.
Even if it’s as simple as being preeshful for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream after a hard day.
Ten Ways to Teach Kids Gratitude Beyond Thanksgiving
- Say thanks. Teach kids early the kindness of saying “thank you” and the habit of telling people you appreciate them. Acknowledging a person’s effort makes both of you feel good.
- Don’t waste. Educate kids to be thankful for modern conveniences like clean running water, abundant food sources, and flip-of-a-switch electricity by practicing conservation. Remind them to not let faucets run, turn off lights that are not being used, and not waste food by only taking one bite.
- Go green. Instill green habits while they’re young and to be respectful of the place we call home. Protect our planet and natural resources with things like watching paper consumption, refilling non-plastic water bottles, or choosing to walk/ride bikes instead of driving
- Donation box. Have kids decorate a box to keep in the garage. Encourage them to deposit toys they don’t play with, clothes they grow out of, or things they don’t need into the box to donate. Let the kids choose which organization to bring it to when it’s full.
- Thank you notes. Don’t allow kids to use a gift until they write or help write a thank you note. It’s a great way to avoid it being put off or never gotten to and instilling the value of saying thanks.
- Chores. Kids learn to appreciate the work Mom and Dad do by helping out. Doing chores around the home like keeping their room clean not only teaches responsibility, but also respect and appreciation for a roof over their heads.
- Go play. A healthy body is not something to be wasted sitting on the couch watching TV, in front of a computer, or playing video games. Appreciate not having any physical limitations by getting out and playing.
- Save Pennies. Have your child save their money for something they want. The act of saving, delayed gratification, and buying something with their own money will teach them to value the item more.
- Say “No.” Giving kids everything they want instills a sense of entitlement. Learning to live without things they desire teaches them they can survive with what they already have.
- Give Love. Like the Beatles said, “Love is all you need.” By regularly showing affection, telling kids you love them, and taking any opportunity to give them a hug or kiss kids learn the most basic form of gratitude is to feel loved by someone.