You’ve gone to the grocery, unloaded the bags, chopped, sizzled, or sautéed the ingredients, and the meal is ready—finally. Your child takes one look at their plate, pushes it away, and screams, “YUCK!”
Your eyes widen, you feel your shoulders rise, and a deep sigh escapes your mouth. Welcome to dinner time! Why can’t your child be grateful, at least enough to take one “thank-you” bite of their food? Why do toys, television, and snacks feel more like rights than special privileges? As you’ve probably realized by now, gratitude does not automatically flow through the DNA of children. It is a learned, cultivated quality that you will foster in your child for years to come. Here are three ways you can begin doing so now:
Model a thankful spirit and expect it in return. Demonstrate to your child how to be grateful by regularly thanking your spouse and other family members for their acts of service and kindness. “Thank you for mowing the grass—the yard looks wonderful.” “You brought me a cup of coffee in bed—I appreciate that so much!” “I can’t thank you enough for cleaning out the car.” In return, teach your child to express gratitude for the acts of service completed on their behalf. Point out ways others have helped them during the day—a teacher who helped get their shoes tied, a parent who made good food, a sibling who read a story to them or shared a toy.
Limit screen time. Research has shown that the average child views up to 40,000 commercials a year and that businesses pour up to $17 billion into advertising (http://www.globalissues.org/article/237/children-as-consumers). These efforts give even young children a desire to consume and make them feel they need (as opposed to want) what they’re seeing. This can easily lead to a spirit of discontentment, the opposite of gratefulness.
Practice delayed gratification and generosity. Asking your child to wait for their snack until you finish a phone conversation will help them be thankful once it’s time to receive the goldfish crackers or apple slices. Baking muffins for a neighbor and then delivering them before you and your child enjoy one yourselves will teach your child the beauty of putting others first, and hopefully will instill gratitude when it’s their turn to enjoy the treat.
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. —1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
This blog content is from the “Growing in Faith” section of the Frolic Family Newsletter, a monthly newsletter for families of children from birth to age 5. To receive content specific to your child’s age, sign up for FREE!
Originally Published 7/20/2017