Parenting

How Do You Teach Your Kids to Be Grateful?

 

Every week our parenting writers weigh in on issues large and small and you have the opportunity to share your insights in the comments section below. We’d love it if you’d join us for a cup of coffee and some great conversation!

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Question: How do you teach your kids to be grateful? 

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Jamie Wilson: Since my husband just deployed, we’re going to be talking about why Daddy’s not home to share the turkey, and how grateful we should all be to him and all our other military members who try so hard to keep us safe. We won’t have an opportunity to talk to Daddy this year as we have in previous years, so they’ll also do some fun little crafts to send to him, ensuring he can enjoy our Thanksgiving from halfway around the world.

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Megan Fox: Ugh. Who knows? I always have high hopes of doing something great and memorable and then I just end up cleaning smeared stuffing out of the high chair and breaking up a fist fight. My kids are very young. I think when they are older and I am less crazed I will take them to do something meaningful like pack groceries for veterans or serve Thanksgiving dinner at a shelter, but for now I’m just surviving (most likely with mashed potatoes in my hair) and trying to keep toothpaste globs out of the sink until Thursday.

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Julie Prince: We focus on being grateful daily in our family. We pray together as a family and remind ourselves often how blessed we are to have our needs and even our wants provided for. We give to several charities throughout the year that give back to people in need in our community.

 The Gary Sinise Foundation is one of our favorites as well. It helps disabled vets and our first responders receive the things they need, including homes. Every year around this time, we have our kids pick out a coat for a child who may not have one and donate it. We also put together stockings every year for “Angels for Kids,” a local charity that provides for low-income children.
It is important for our children to know and understand what it is to be selfless. Giving back isn’t just for the recipient, but it is for you, too. The feeling of giving makes a person feel really whole and is therapeutic for the soul and kids get that.
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Leslie Loftis: Megan, I completely understand. I had those moments when my children were very young, too. For now, talk about the service you can manage and model for them, but mainly plan for when they are older.

My kids are older, four between 7 and 12 years old, and so we can do more. Beyond the foundation-building talks, I started adding action a few years ago. Before Thanksgiving we donate food in various drives. During Thanksgiving, we have a family talk about things we are thankful for. I like to do that as a fireside talk, but this is Houston. It might be 80 degrees as easily as 40 on the fourth Thursday of November.
After Thanksgiving we start focusing on service for the coming of Advent. There is a local church here in Houston that started a Bless Friday movement, resisting the gimmie vibe of Black Friday with a day of service. I’d have the children serve in shelters on Friday, but various regulations make it difficult for children under 13 to actively participate. This vexes me greatly, because as any experienced parent knows, we can’t spring things like service or chores on 13-year-olds and expect success. You have to build those habits. It’s just another way the nanny state prevents and hampers the community. So I get creative. A former homeless man has a hands-on ministry and the kids and I are helping restock his backpack stores (socks, clean shirts, hygiene items, etc.) on Friday. We will also visit my uncle’s nursing home. Then, we prepare for Advent. (I’m a big fan of the liturgical calendar.)
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Brianna Sharbaugh: Since our son is two, we will have to save this lesson for another day. One thing we do every year with my family is a Thanksgiving morning 5k, the Drumstick Dash, that benefits a local mission. This is my family’s fifth year to participate. It’s a sobering thing to begin this holiday out in the cold, running to feed the homeless. It reminds us every year of how much we have, no matter how tight money is for our family. Our son will grow up with this legacy, with pictures of our family running each year. This will be our son’s third Drumstick Dash — his first was when I was 37 weeks pregnant (which led to two annoying potty breaks!), and his second was in the snow, all bundled up at 11 months old. I love that this is a tradition that will always have been a part of his life (even before he was born!).
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Kristina Ribali: Our tradition for many years has been to buy a few carts full of groceries and donate them to our church’s food bank the week before Thanksgiving. Our children also choose gifts from our Angel Tree at the church and use their own money to buy gifts for others less fortunate. Being grateful is something we try to teach year-round.