How often do we hear parents with young children reminding their youngsters to say “please and thank you.” These little words represent to all of us what constitutes the beginning of good manners. Young children mimic these words almost in a parrot-like fashion. But, do they really grasp the meaning of these overused words? We tell children to be thankful and to show appreciation. The real key is to teach the meaning of these words. When we define the word “gratitude,” Webster’s dictionary states: the quality of being thankful and showing appreciation. In this highly electronic era, our children are constantly receiving instant gratification. As we all know, the harder and longer we have to work for something we desire, the more we appreciate it.
When our children ask for something we need to learn restraint by saying, “we all want things but we must work for them.” Let’s have our children work toward a goal to receive things…be it a game, toy or a privilege. Even a three year old can help sort laundry by pairing socks, and stacking or folding towels. By doing simple tasks together we are teaching responsibility and spending valuable time together. Be sure to thank your child for helping and reward them for their help. However, these rewards must be in small amounts such as by charting their helping time and reaching a goal which could be that special item or privilege!
Practicing gratitude is the perfect way to begin teaching gratitude. Children are always watching how we treat others including our spouses, friends, and relatives. If we tell our children to behave a certain way and we don’t behave that way…they see the hypocrisy. We have to remember to always practice what we preach! We must model a grateful attitude and express this behavior in order for our children to learn from the best: their parents.