Experience the season of family and friends.
Written by Susan Day
Raising Thankful Kids
While America toils in discontent, NOW is the time to remind ourselves what we should be thankful for: our lives, our health, our children. Yes, the economy is bad, but children don’t really understand these things. What they DO understand is Mom’s and Dad’s stress. Or that this year things aren’t quite as easy at home as they were in the past. Finding ways to raise thankful, empathetic children is harder than ever. But two easy steps you can take are in giving thanks audibly on a regular basis and in encouraging empathy. Learning to say, “Thank you,” comes from parents modeling this to their children. Empathy is a bit trickier. No matter how many sermons you give on “poor, starving children in the world” when your children don’t eat dinner, the quickest way to get kids to tune out is to lecture them on how they should feel. What we CAN do is encourage them to think about other people’s feelings. Steven Carr Reuben, Ph.D., author of Raising Ethical Children (Prima Lifestyles) says that in talking with children, it works best to ask them to respond to the question, “How would I like it if the situation were reversed?” Whether the issue is not bothering to write a thank you note to grandma for a birthday gift, or speaking rudely to a friend, asking, “How would you like it?” is a powerful question, far more effective than any parental pronouncement.
Instilling Gratitude ...
We live in a “me, me, me” society that makes it easy to get sucked into a black hole of thankless living, says Drew Leder, M.D., author of Games for the Soul: 40 Ways to Find Fun and Fulfillment in a Stressful World (Hyperion). Because of this, gratitude is counter cultural. For children to be grateful for what they have, parents need to begin early — as soon as verbal interaction begins — and continually reinforce it throughout adolescence. This is an ongoing operation that requires constant support and encouragement.
The bottom line, Leder says: Our children learn from everything we say and do. If we cheat, they’ll cheat. If we lie, they’ll lie. If we complain about all the things that we don’t have and choose to ignore what we do, then so will our children. Ingratitude is contagious and we risk raising ungrateful children if we’re not careful.