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Let’s face it, building gratitude and thanks into small children is a hard and daunting task. It’s easy to teach them to say thank you after they receive something tangible or at the dinner table. The more lasting lesson of gratitude is a harder lesson to teach.
In this post holiday season gratitude is on my mind as I remind my children to stop asking for any more things and be thankful for all they have. I mean they have just spent the last few weeks being gorged with treats! Gifts! Outings! More gifts! Excitement!
January can sometimes be a let down.
Here are some ways we are instilling gratitude and thanks in the heart of our children:
Teaching Gratitude to Children
Secret of Saying Thanks by Douglas Wood
This is one of my favorite books. Through beautiful pictures Douglas Woods teaches children how important it is to say thank you without being a manners book. From Amazon:
Perhaps you’d like to know a secret, one of the happiest ones of all. You will surely find it for yourself one day. You’ll discover it all on your own, maybe when you least expect it. If you’ve not yet discovered the secret of saying thanks, it’s waiting for you. The secret can be found in the sunrise that offers promises full for the day ahead, or in the gentle shade of a tree sheltering you from the hot rays of the sun, or on the rock that offers rest from a long walk. In the inspirational text that made him a bestselling, internationally acclaimed author, Douglas Wood offers a spiritual homage to nature and the world. Greg Shed’s stunning portraits of the natural world tenderly portray all of the many ways in which we can say thanks for the wonders we sometimes take granted in life.
Every few months we check it out from the library to remind our children to say thank you.
The other way we regularly teach our children to say thanks is through writing thank you notes. I know there are a lot of opinions on the value and task of writing thank you notes. I am in the “they must be done” camp. I think it’s important after the excitement and shine of the holidays or birthday wears off to go back and remember who gave you the gift and to thank them for it. I think the process of doing it alone is a great lesson in gratitude.
For kids under 3 I just write the thank you’s myself. However once my kids are in school and writing their name they participate. It starts with just signing their own name and sometimes adding a picture to the card.
When there are a lot to write this is the quickest and easiest way to get compliance.
For my sons first birthday we actually took a picture of him playing with or wearing every gift he got and sent those with the thank you notes. I have not been that organized to do it again but it’s a cute idea.
One year when we did no gifts, we took a picture of him with the items we collected and a hand written Thank you Sign. We had them printed as photo cards and sent them to everyone that came.
My kids are generally agreeable to writing the notes. The first grader is the biggest complainer because he has to write the whole thing (I write the text he copies it). We simply remind them that if they don’t want to say thank you they can give the gift back instead. That’s usually all the motivation they need.
This year I am writing the note on the lower half of the card for my little girls. The three year old signs her name and than passes the card to the 6 year old. He writes his note on the top part of the card. This helps with encouragement because we are all part of the card, it also cuts down on postage!
Make it fun!
All week the Antioch Public Library is hosting Drop-in Thank you cards. Drop-in to the Children’s Activity center any time during regular hours to create and write your thank you cards. What a great way to start the new year and make a chore a fun outing!
So how do you teach gratitude? do you make the kids write thank you notes?
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