Monday, December 2, 2013

Thankful Parenting

I know it's cliché, but this is a great time of year to step back and consciously sum up what you are thankful for. Everyone has something, regardless of your situation. You just have to find it.

Thankfulness is also an important lesson to instill in your children, as it is not a skill that comes naturally. In fact, we know that young children are naturally egocentric until about age seven, which is about as far off from thankfulness as you can get.

Teaching thankfulness to children, however, does not mean forcing them to say "please" and "thank you" regularly. While it doesn't hurt to gently remind them of the appropriate times to use their manners, research has debunked any claims that making your children say these words will actually cause them to understand the concept behind them.

No, your children will learn thankfulness, courtesy and manners by how you model those skills. So, if you find it challenging to be thankful, it's time for some self-reflection to figure out how you can change those habits. It is your responsibility as a parent.

Why not make a list of the things you are thankful for? You can make your own or sit down together as a family to generate a list. Talking about it at the dinner table is a great place to start. Include your children in the process somehow.

At our house, we made "Thankful Turkey Hands." It couldn't be simpler. All you do is trace the outline of your hand, draw legs, and add a beak and a wattle (aka "gobble") to your thumb, then write something you are thankful for in each of the four feather fingers. We chose window markers as our medium:

 
I know it's a little hard to read, so here is my list:
  1. Warmth--I'm fortunate to have a warm place to sleep at night
  2. Family--need I say more?
  3. Friends--who are the best support system I have next to my family
  4. Home--it's everything to me!
I was happy to see both my kids bring home thankfulness projects from school. Here is my seven year-old's:
 
His four things he wrote?
  1. "I am thankful for Halloween because it has candy."
  2. "I am thankful for my house because it is cosey."
  3. "I am thankful for my brother because he plays with me."
  4. "I am thankful for my mom and dad because they do a lot of stuff for me."
Some of my thankful parenting may have rubbed off, after all!

Bringing thankfulness into your family's life will not only benefit your children by helping them recognize the joys in life, but you will also feel better by having a more positive outlook. It doesn't have to stop at Thanksgiving! Continue to make thankfulness lists every month. Make it a part of your family's routine.

What are you thankful for this year? Individually? As a family? I'd love to hear responses from adults and kids alike in the comments section.