Sunday, November 10, 2013

Afterschool for Smarty Pants: Teaching Gratitude

Gratitude Needs to Be Taught

An attitude of gratitude can make a huge difference in our lives, but we are not born to feel grateful. As parents, we are attuned to our children needs, we feed them and clothe them, we cuddle and comfort them. Most Western parents are also well trained by advertising industry to fulfill non-essential whims and wishes of their children even before they are voiced (guilty as charged here). So how do we raise grateful children instead of entitled little consumers?

Don’t Do “A Thankfulness Month”

Thankful LeavesIt’s too easy to fall into the trap of scheduling your thankfulness lessons around October (in Canada) and November (in US). After all, there is a special holiday for it. Both my husband and I come from the countries that don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, but this is partially why we try to remember to be grateful throughout the year. Sure, we do special Thanksgiving projects to celebrate November. Last couple of years it was a Thankful Tree, and this year we are doing a Thanksgiving garland with paper leaves. My daughter also loves games, and she invented this gratitude game that I expect to play often throughout the year.
Every day of the year during our “good night cuddle” we talk about things that made us happy and thankful today. We also make it into a game to see who can come up with more “thankful thoughts”. This little ritual accomplishes two things – it gives both of us a chance to focus on good things before falling asleep, and it gives me a glimpse into my daughter’s thoughts and feelings that cannot be extracted by a classic, "How was school today?” question.

Give to Others

Service Project: Planting Flowers
“Two kinds of gratitude: The sudden kind we feel for what we take; the larger kind we feel for what we give. “     ~ Edwin Arlington Robinson.
I think the best way to create grateful children is to have them serve others. I admit that we could do a lot better here, because so far our service to others was mostly in donating books and toys, participating in back-to-school and holiday drives, and giving food to Second Harvest food bank. I keep thinking about ideas of not just giving money, but actually interacting with people who need our help. This is why I am very interested in Pennies of Time ideas of service-friendly projects for young kids, and I really want to do more service projects with my daughter now when she is old enough to actively participate in them.