Teaching Kids to be Thankful is Not Just for Thanksgiving

It’s November!  That magical month where people magically become softer, kinder, gentler, and more vocally grateful!  I love seeing gratitude.  I love hearing folks proclaim their gratitude.

Now, I am not good at much, but gratitude and thankfulness?  THAT’S MY JAM.  

If you know me at all then you know not a day, hell, hardly an hour goes by without me proclaiming my gratitude for something.  It’s annoying even to myself at times, but there it is.  Gratitude is my religion.  It works if you work it.  And hey, my expression of gratitude and joy takes absolutely nothing away from yours.  Nothing.  It’s not a competition.  We all can find things to be grateful for at any moment.  I’m even grateful for the bad stuff. Teachable, terrible moments in my life have made me a better version of myself.

Now, since I’ve had a couple kids, I need to be a guide to gratitude.  To thankfulness.  Not just in November, and not just around the Thanksgiving table.

I had a long talk with my kids last weekend as we were walking home from the park about what it means to be thankful.

I started out by saying, “I am so thankful it’s such a nice day out today.”

My boy chimed in with, “Me too mama.  It sure is a nice day out today.  We go to park.”

I then posed the question to both of them, “Do you know what being thankful means?”

*crickets*

“What does it mean?”

“Well, it means that I am happy about certain things we have.  And people. It means that we would be sad if we didn’t have these things or people. Like, I am so thankful for my kids.  And for daddy.  And for my job!  Where I get to go every day and make money for us to live in our house!  I’m so thankful for our nice warm house.  But the thing I am most thankful for – that I love the most – is you two kids.  And the rest of our family.”

We then proceed to name everybody in our family that we love, including at the top of the list our Didi.  We are so lucky because that list takes a long time.

“WE THANKFUL FOR MAMA AND DADA TOO.”

“I’m thankful for my sister, Bebe.”

“I’m thankful for my brother, Gah.”

“That’s it, guys!  Let’s talk about some other things we can be thankful for.”

“Our stroller?”

“Yes! that’s a great one.  Our stroller gets us to so many places.  And it keeps us safe and dry and helps when our legs get tired.  I am so thankful for our stroller.”

“I’m thankful for my beeboops!”

“Good one, Bub!  You have so many beeboops and you feel thankful that you have nice toys to play with. That’s great.”

“MY BABIES!”

“That’s great, Bebe!  Your babies are so nice to play with and take care of and you take good care of them, right?”

“CRACKERS!  SUCKERS! DIDAS!” (I’m just glad they didn’t say poop.  Although, poop is really something to be grateful for as well.)

“Yes! Those are such good things to be thankful for!  Ok, so we’ve talked all about what we are thankful for and mommy is going to ask you every day to tell me one thing you are thankful for, OK?  So you think really hard and each night we can talk about that one thing you are grateful for.  It can be a person or a place or a toy or a book or a shirt.  Just something you really like and are thankful for, ok?”

“Ok, mama.”

Then they proceed to run away and roll in the leaves and maybe not think about being thankful anymore for a while.

So, while the profundity of gratitude will not sink in for some time, they are getting the concept at almost 3 years old, that they are thankful for what they have.

Life needs to happen before we can be really grateful for what we have, and these two are still young, but we have to start early.  I make plenty of mistakes with my parenting, but I can do this right.  I can pass on gratitude and the importance of it every single day.

Even when bad things happen, we can be grateful for how we handle them and the people we have around us to handle them with grace and dignity. We can always always always find something to be grateful for.  I know this to be true.  Even in the worst of times.

Pretty soon here they will start volunteering with us and we will include them more and more in activities to help others who are less fortunate, and they will get the profundity first hand.  I will do my damndest to ensure that they get it. Kindness and compassion and gratitude are my goals for myself and my children.  And it doesn’t just happen.  I have to ensure they see it, understand it and pass it on.

We have started piles of toys and clothes that we are giving away to other kids – “LITTLE KIDS MAMA.  LITTLE BABIES.  NOT US BECAUSE WE BIG KIDS” – and we talk about how much we loved these and played with them but now it’s time to pass them onto other kids who really need them.  They are actively involved in this process and while it takes a hell of a lot longer to complete, I get a lot of more tears of gratitude out of the deal.

Not just in November and not just around Thanksgiving but every damn day.  Gratitude is the key.

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See also:

Unapologetic Gratitude

Practicing gratitude is not just for November

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