Raising a Grateful Child

I remember like it was yesterday. Holiday tension and spoiled behavior. Heaven forbid I got clothes, I hated clothes. It didn’t even matter if I had previously asked for them. I was one of those spoiled children that made the hairs on your head turn grey.
While many children can be trained to say “please” and “thank you”, appreciation and generosity is an ongoing lesson. Here’s a few examples and how to handle them.

Your child’s Christmas list keeps growing and growing.
Mention that you appreciate his needs and wants, and make him aware that it will only be possible to get a few of them. That way, you can set expectations without making him feel greedy or foolish.
Ask im to make a second list equal in the amount of things he wants to get, of things or actions he’s willing to give. Suggests Maureen Healy, author of 365 Perfect Things to Say to Your Kids. For example,
1) Clean room
2) Help with gift wrapping
3) Make a Holiday Card

Remember to be reasonable.

If your budget is tight this year, be honest with your child but don’t scare them. Instead of saying, “Daddy might lose  his job so we can’t afford it”, which might make him worry that you could be losing the house next week, instead say, “Nothing to worry about, but we might have to wait on getting your new bike until next year, we don’t have enough money right now.”

Before the Holidays
Help your child understand that gifts are thoughtful gestures and are not just for materialistic gain.

A toddler girl crying

Image via Wikipedia

Anytime they receive a present, point out everything the giver put into it. If a classmate colors him a picture, you might mention that they used your child’s favorite colors, or that it looks like it took a whole hour to make it. Do this enough times and he’ll get the “quality” over “quantity” idea soon enough.

Your 5 yr old complains that she wanted a Barbie for Christmas, not a stuffed animal.
Children 5 or younger are too young to understand that we should hide our negative feelings to protect someone else’s. Older children understand it better but still have slip ups. You might respond to your child with “I know you wanted a Barbie but let’s think of some fun ways you can play with your stuffed animal.” or you can try to defuse the situation with “wow that was thoughtful, wasn’t it Samantha? Aunt Cheryl remembered you needed mittens!” This trick works for all ages.

Before the Holidays
Or any gift giving occasion, talk to your child and prepare them for the possibility that they might not like all of the presents they get, but at the same time, let them know that it’s still  important for them to show appreciation. Remind them that people put effort into trying to find the best thing. Maybe coming up with a special cue for the two of you, that reminds them to say thank you. When you see their mouth turning down, try clapping your hands and saying “Great present!” to snap them back into good-manners mode.

Holidays are about spending time with the ones you love. By teaching your children how to be appreciative, or at least work on it, holidays can become more enjoyable for everyone. Happy Holidays!


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