Someone once told me that a child who has everything appreciates nothing. And the more I think about this the more it is true.
A family friend of mine came to Australia as a refugee. She only had two toys growing up, a smirf and a doll. She cherished those two toys with all her heart. They did not leave her sight, and the thought of even losing them brought a tear to her eye.
Then I see my daughter who is only 18 months old and she already has an endless supply of toys. So many that I had to dedicate a whole room for her toys and purchase toy storage to keep it all organised. If some of her toys went missing, she wouldn’t even know. In fact, sometimes I wonder how she can even decide on which ones to play with.
As parenting involves a lot of self-reflection, I often worry about what I am teaching my daughter. Am I raising my daughter to not be ungrateful and as a result self-entitled and disappointed?
Gratitude is a mindset and a lifestyle. It’s not just about saying please and thank you.
So here are 10 ways you can try to instil gratitude into your daily lives:
1. Practice what you preach
To reinforce gratitude it is important for children to see parents practice what they preach. Children learn from what their parents say and do in front of them. So I keep this in mind during my day to day conversations. I talk about being thankful for the small things. Often I will say to my daughter how thankful we are for the postman bringing our mail to the door, or the food her grandmother made, or the dog being so affectionate.
2. Practice saying no
Often children don’t appreciate everything if we are always saying yes. By saying no we’re reminding them that they can’t always get everything they want immediately.
3. Say ‘thank you’ always
Always ensure your child promptly says thank you when they receive gifts. Often kids don’t know how to do this, so it is a good idea to do some role play at home. Get your child to practice how they would say thank you. Another good way is to get them to write a thank you note and give it to the person within 24 hours. If the child refuses to do this, take the gift away from them. Also encourage them to thank teachers at the end of the school year, and other people who have quietly made a difference in their life.
4. Create daily or weekly routines
A regular question like "What are you most thankful for today?" can be part of a bedtime routine or at the end of the week.
5. Give kids chores
I am a big believer in involving children in the day-to-day tasks. There are age appropriate tasks you can get your kids doing to get them feeling like part of the tribe. Kids love to feel included and like they are helping out, and it also makes them appreciate what you do for them more.
6. Small acts of kindness
Get the kids involved in doing small acts of kindness for others. Things like baking a cake for someone, or writing someone a get-well card, or drawing a picture for an uncle. Talk about how nice it is, as it will bring a smile to the other person's face.
7. Encourage patience
Encourage kids to look forward to something. Sure they have their eye on this super cool toy which you can probably just go out and buy straight away. But instead teach kids to be patient by not rushing out to get the toy straight away, maybe save it for Christmas or their birthday instead. Or better yet have them participate in buying it so they learn the value of a dollar. You could give your kids get an allowance or earn money at a job. By allowing them to save up, they learn patience in working toward what they want.
8. Donate to charities
Encourage your child to donate items to those less fortunate. Things like old clothes or duplicate toys they might have received as a present. They can also participate in getting a present for a disadvantaged child and placing it under the charity Christmas tree.
9. Focus on the silver lining
Things will happen at home or at school that may upset your child. But even the worst events or situations have some positive aspect. Focus on the brighter side with your child when something doesn’t go their way.
10. Teach your children their past
I am sure most families have stories of hardship and perseverance you can remind your child. My grandfather came to Australia in the early 1960’s with nothing but a pair of trousers in his bag. If you’re not sure of your past just take a day trip to a history museum or other historic site.