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3 Must Have Tips for Teaching Gratitude

3 Must Have Tips for Teaching Gratitude
December 9, 2016 Erin Royer-Asrilant

3 Must Have Tips for Teaching Gratitude During the Holidays

If you prefer listening over reading:listen to podcast episode

I don’t know about your kids, but mine (and I know they are young) but they tend to think a whole lot more about what they aren’t getting than what they are. This is not abnormal for kids whose needs are well taken care of. But I do want them to have a greater awareness of what the world is like for many people. I want them to appreciate what they have and want to help those who are not as fortunate.

So for other parents out there who want to raise grateful kids, here are 3 tips for teaching kids about gratitude during the holidays.

Volunteer to help those in need
Adopt a family for the holidays. I like the ones where our kids learn about the family and their struggles and the kids, which can really help them connect and make it more real. Any effort is nice. But it’s much more real when they can at least read about the family and if you can hand deliver the meal or gifts to them, that’s all the better! The kids can help with the entire process, like gathering things around the house that they no longer need, like clothes and toys and also help shop in the stores for anything like food, toiletries and gifts for the family.

Volunteer at a shelter or soup kitchen, this is another great way to do something as a family to give back.

There are SO many opportunities and ways to give time and help others in need, such as for older kids, tutoring with younger kids who are struggling in school. Lots of places of worship, churches, temples, and mosques offer opportunities to volunteer with their religious community on projects like fixing up an inner city school, building housing, preparing meals, or putting together care packages.

Emphasize the holidays being about togetherness
Have the kids help decorate the house and help bake and cook. Baking together is such a bonding experience and even toddlers can and do love to help in the kitchen, from dumping to mixing!

Play together! Whether it’s games, arts and crafts or with younger kids building blocks, imaginary play or drawing and painting, the extra time off of school, and for working parents, hopefully extra time off of work, gives us more opportunity to bond as a family!

Beware of Overindulgence
Overindulgence is more than just too many toys or big expensive toys. That’s just one small piece of it. I will be adding a class on this down the road but it’s a good piece to discuss here because it really fits this topic.

Overindulgence comes from a good place. It’s wanting kids to have the best and wanting them to have a great childhood. But it can be dangerous and get in the way of raising successful, happy, well-adjusted kids. Overindulgence is meeting way more wants than needs.

So wee need to talk with our kids about wants and needs and what the difference is. It’s fine to want something. We all want stuff! But it’s also important to know when it’s a want versus a need. We’ve all heard our kids say, I NEEEED that! (Whatever it is, football, video game, bike) So it’s our job to then coach our child on the difference between a want and a need.

So overindulgence is giving too much, or too soon or for too long. Too soon, is experiences that are not age-appropriate. I get asked a lot about Can I watch this movie or that movie? Usually the same 2-3 movies keep coming up and the answer is still NO! They are not age appropriate!

Here are some ways of to avoid overindulging, whether it’s during the holidays, birthdays or just in general.

The first way of overindulging is buying too much stuff! Too many toys: when there are too many toys, children don’t play with them and don’t play as in depth. Can take ½ toys to a storage area (garage or closet) and rotate every couple of months.

Too many gifts can be a challenge in big families. So you can work with your family to figure out how to keep things from getting out of hand! My family has gone from everyone getting something for everyone, to one cousin picking a name to this year, us getting each other something that is for family time, like museum tickets, movie tickets, etc. My twins just had their birthday. I spent 3 or 4 hours cleaning through old toys and I’m still not done! So when I spoke with one of my sisters, we both agreed that our kids all have plenty of stuff and we don’t want any more in our houses!

Too many clothes: when kids have so many clothes that they barely or never wear something before they outgrow it, the don’t appreciate it and then are always asking for more.  If you constantly replace lost clothes, like gloves or mittens, it teaches kids NOT to care for things. “It’s OK to lose them. We have more.” Once kids have anything that is theirs, they should be learning about how we care for things. How we respect our things. The same goes for toys. Don’t replace a book or toy that was mistreated. Once its broken, it’s gone.

Another way of overindulging is giving things or experiences that are not appropriate for their age or interests. Sometimes we really want to share something we loved as a kid with our kids or we want to experience something, whether it’s a ride or a game, or a movie and so we take our kid before he or she is really ready. We can do so much that it’s harmful to their development. Letting a 5 year old dress like a 20 year old. Letting an 11 year old watch an R rated movie, no curfew at 14. Too much power/freedom too early before they are ready. Too much information than they are ready for, parentifying or adultifying, making your child your best friend.

So when considering experiences and trips for the holidays, keep in mind age-appropriate experiences. They will be able to do all of those other things someday. We all know how fast childhood goes. So no need to rush!