We are constantly trying to raise our children to become thankful little human beings. We remind them of their “P”s and “Q”s and to be grateful for their bounty. How many times (today) have you told your little ones “You get what you get and you say ‘thank you!'”? And perhaps just a tiny little part of you wants to be shown gratitude for the endless efforts you’re putting into fulfilling their every need.
How do we raise our children to be thankful? Model appreciation.
1. Catch Them in the Act
Noticing those moments of growth in our children is essential. The continual reminders you’ve given them have come down to this. It’s the bottom of the ninth, her little brother is grabbing and….. she lets him have the toy. “Thank you sweetie! I know that you had the doll first but do you see how happy you’ve just made Avi? Keep it up and he’ll learn how to share with you!”
2. Give Them Your Undivided Attention
Your time is precious – show them that theirs is too. You’re preparing dinner, overseeing homework, and then the phone rings. “Mommy, please can you help me with this question?”
Think about this scenario for a second. There are two options here. You could whisper to your child that you’ll be off in five minutes – the amount of time it’ll take to hear about the great deal your sister found today – or you could tell her “Listen Sarah, I can’t wait to hear all about it, but I’ll ave to call you back. I’m just helping Benny with his homework.” Let your child know that your attention is focused on him. Granting him quality undivided focus will teach him to appreciate the value of a person’s time.
3. Pull Back the Curtains on Your Efforts
Have you ever gone to see a professional production and marvelled at the product before you? Did you forget, even just for a moment (or for the entire play) how much work and collaboration goes into coordinating all the costumes, music, acting, and special effects? That is, until the production teams were thanked at the curtain call? This is how you kids view you.
Your children accept realities at face value. When they sit down to dinner they don’t wonder how it came to be. They accept as a given that clothes are always fresh and clean (“Mommy, how come your socks are in my drawer?” he giggles).
Well, I’ve started pulling back the curtain and letting little ones in on parenting secrets. My little one asked recently in all sincerity why I had to go to work, as we have the money we need to buy things. He said “the cashier always gives you money when you buy things.” Money? Trees? Anyone? But seriously, I’ve begun explaining how all the neat and tidy ends come to be at home, and that it’s not merely by the swish of a wand.
4. Hone Their Work Ethic
I love chores. Not doing them per se, but rather the habitual nature of them. I’m all for little ones learning to clean the bathroom with you. If you find that a bit much, begin with gently handing over a paper towel when your little one spills the milk. Or have her put a new bag into the garbage bin. And thank them for it – specifically. Remember point #1? The more educated they become on what it takes to run a home, the sooner you’ll begin to receive their expressions of thanks.
5. Mitzva Note Flips
So many schools have implemented the mitzva note system, encouraging parents of kindergarten aged kids to send in notes catching their ids in a good deed. One of the best tricks I’ve found in imbuing a sense of appreciation within little ones is for them to ‘write’ or just voice mitzva notes for other family members. Whether for parents or siblings, having a child focus verbal expression on the good that they see others doing, especially for their own good, creates a world of thanks. Offer suggestions such as “Mommy, thank you for giving me a bath so that I’m always clean,” or “Mom, thank you for such a delicious dinner that helps me grow big and strong.”
6. Model Appreciation
It goes without saying, practice what you preach. To raise an appreciative child, you must exemplify the appreciative person you’d like them to become.
It all begins with “Modeh ani…” Thank You, Creator of the universe, for another joyous opportunity to raise my children with appreciation and recognition of Your good graces, and the efforts of those around them.