Raising a Grateful Child

Raising a Grateful Child

I have a confession to make: I’m afraid we might be spoiling our firstborn child. I didn’t mean for it to happen. But I think it did. I can explain, really. 

You see, I was very worried about how Lukas would react to his little brother’s arrival this summer (and I already had some serious working mom guilt going on anyway), so when we were at the store and he asked for the Jake toy we passed in the toy aisle, I reasoned it was only a few dollars and I bought it. The next trip he wanted a match box car. A dollar later and he had his car.  Can you see where this is going? When his brother was born we made sure there were just as many Big Brother gifts as there were New Baby gifts, which I appreciated at the time because my toddler was feeling loved. But then something worrisome started happening. Lukas would be playing with a toy (Captain Hook, for instance) and mention a toy he didn’t have (the tick tock croc) and say to me “Mommy, we need to buy that at the store.” I had a little consumer on my hands. A consumer I had created. Oops.

My fears were confirmed at his third birthday party this past week. He was so focused on the gift waiting in the shiny package that he would rip open the tissue paper without waiting for me to read the card to find out who each gift was from. All he cared about was his new toy or book. The familiar worry set in, as I felt like I’d failed in yet another parenting task.

But hopefully it’s not too late to undo my mistakes and avoid any permanent damage. Luckily this is the perfect time of year to talk about being thankful and appreciating the things we have. There are also many opportunities to give to those less fortunate, which we can turn into great learning experiences for our children.

Lukas’ school is currently collecting cans to donate to the local food bank. The preschool classes and above are taking the giving process a step further. The school created a Primrose Market where the children can bring money that they’ve earned at home by doing chores and purchase items to donate to the food bank. It has been a wonderful opportunity to talk to Lukas about giving to others. Since he is three, Lukas is in the lovely phase of “Why?” right now. My husband and I explained the Primrose Market to him at dinner the other night and we were met with why after why. We told him that there were boys and girls who didn’t have enough food to eat so he was going to get to help feed them. We explained as best we could that whenever we can, we should help others who might be in need. I’m not sure how much he understood of what we were saying, but at least we started the dialogue and he will soon feel the joy and fulfillment that comes from helping others less fortunate than himself.

Writing thank you notes for birthday and holiday gifts is also a wonderful place to start laying the foundation for fostering gratitude in your child. Although 3-year-olds can’t write, they can draw pictures to include in the thank you cards. And let’s not forget about all the wonderful books that have the words that we as parents can’t always put together so eloquently. There are a wide array of books about Thanksgiving and teaching gratitude, many involving some of our favorite characters – George, Biscuit and a certain Bear family to a name a few.

If you’re like me and have accidentally raised a “me, me, me” centered child, look out for all the opportunities to help others during this wonderful time of year. Giving some spare change to Santa outside the grocery store or donating toys to children in need are just a few of the ways you can get your children into the giving spirit and helping them learn to be thankful for what they have.

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