Teaching thankfulness in children
It is never too early to begin teaching children to be thankful.
Raising children to be thankful will take time. Very young children, between the ages of 2 and 3, are by nature self-focused and tend to believe the world revolves around them. According to Michigan State University Extension, at this age children have not developed abstract thinking and instead think much more what is currently going on. They have not developed the skills of understanding feelings, so in most cases they are unlikely to respond in ways in which adults would consider more appropriate. As a grown adult, we value and appreciate expressions of thankfulness and appreciation.
Parents and caretakers can begin to teach young children the value of thankfulness by modeling this to the child. This can be as simple as saying “Thanks for helping grandpa, he needed help.” The child can also be invited to help the parent with what they are working on. Parents and caretakers can also help by keeping gift giving reasonable. According to Zero To Three, children who get numerous gifts frequently do not express thankfulness. Children also tend to play longer with toys when there are less around.
Parents and caretakers can model by getting involved in community helping agencies and take the child with them. Other ways that children can be encouraged is by teaching them to say “thank you,” or “please.” The parent can encourage the child to write a thank-you letter. If the child has not developed legible writing skills the parent can write above the child’s own writing in more clear words. Talk about other situations in which individuals responded in a thankful manner and draw it out for the child to get a greater understanding. Another way to promote thankfulness is for parents or caretakers to display caring acts of kindness with the child around. It is important to communicate to the child what is taking place; encourage them to create a drawing while you participate in these acts of kindness. For example, “Let’s go help Mrs. Cook with putting the trash out. I know she has a difficult time walking and I think she would really appreciate our help. I think Mrs. Cook was really pleased we helped. Don’t you?” As parents move through the day they should look for opportunities in which they could extend helpfulness. You may both have to do it together for a while. When the child does perform caring deeds or responds in a thankful manner let them know you are proud of them.