Mar 23, 2012

Fostering Gratitude

If there is one thing that I love to see in my girls, it is a thankful heart.  Thankfulness is the source of contentment, and without it, frugality can become a vain pursuit of getting the most at the least expense.  You will never, ever have enough if you continually focus on what you don't have.  I love the following quote by Fred D. Van Amburgh: "None is more impoverished than the one who has no gratitude.  Gratitude is a currency that we can mint for ourselves, and spend without fear of bankruptcy."  

Here are a few things we practice with our girls to develop thankfulness:
  • Be a Grateful Person Yourself. You know the proverb, "More is caught than taught."  It's a proverb because it's truth.  If you don't have it, they won't get it.  Write that thank-you note that's been on your mind for two weeks...or a month...or six months.  Just do it.  Say thank you when the employee at the grocery store hands you your bags.  Say thanks to your children when they draw you a picture; look into their eyes and mean it when you say it.  Talk to your children about how glad you are that daddy works so hard for your family.  
  • Start Early.  When our girls turned 6 months old and about the time that they started sitting in their high chair at meals, we began to teach them a few simple signs.  One of those was "thank you".  We consistently showed them the sign (flat hand to mouth, direct hand towards giver) whenever it was appropriate to say thanks.  It took a while, but by a year, they knew the sign for "thank you" and would sign it upon command and occasionally sign it without being told. By 18 months, they both have learned to say it without being prompted (not to say that we don't still have to prompt them at times!)

  • Give Back to Others.   Look for opportunities for your children to show their appreciation.  If a neighbor gives them candy, have your children draw a picture of themselves with the neighbor and give it to them.  At Christmas time, use your children's creative work as a thank-you note.  Involve you children in the process.  Ask your children what they think they could do to show how much they enjoyed a gift.  Go through their belongings and encourage them to share some of their toys or clothes with friends or the needy. Bake cookies with your kids and give them away with thank-you notes.

  • Acknowledge Gratefulness.  It may feel a bit corny at first, but verbally recognizing your child's effort to show gratitude will help them develop the habit. Most children love to be praised for good work. Saying, "I loved how you told Daddy thank you for tying your shoes!" excites them to do it more.  The things that are important to you will be important to your children.  Communicating those values and spending time on those efforts shows that it is important to you.
I'm always looking for new ideas, and I'm curious what others do to foster gratitude in their children.  Please share!

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