Every day, the news is full of stories of loss and stories about families affected by storms and cultural unrest. A good way to deflect the attention from these topics is to focus attention on the many everyday reasons we have to be thankful. Teaching appreciation is simple, and even the youngest of children can start to grasp this concept by consistently reinforcing the qualities of thankfulness and positivity.
Model it. Children watch our every move and reflect the attitudes and behaviors that the adults in their life represent. Every day, we have countless opportunities to show our appreciation—to the cashier at the grocery store, the crossing guard, the kind soul who lets us slide our car in front of his in traffic. When we consistently model gestures of appreciation for our children, we increase the chance of raising kids who are polite and appreciative themselves.
Point out all the things we have to appreciate. We have a lot to appreciate. Start small with your children by pointing out how lucky we are to be part of a family. Ask your children what they like about your family—what things they enjoy doing as a family, and what they appreciate about individual members in your family. Make it a game, asking everyone in the family to name the thing they are most grateful for each day.
Show your children you appreciate them. Telling your children that you appreciate them brings the concept of appreciation into focus for them. Demonstrating your appreciation for your child is most effective when you tell her immediately, and when you’re very specific about what you appreciate. For example, “I like how you put your plate in the sink after lunch without me asking” resonates more than a simple “thank you.”
Facilitate your child’s thankfulness. When your child talks about being thankful for something, encourage her to share that appreciation with others. If she received presents, help her write simple thank you notes to each person who gave her a gift. Help her call her grandparents to thank them for something nice that they’ve done. Being thankful is good. Sharing that thankfulness with others is even better.