I recently shared on this platform how the demand for more and more toys by children is every parent’s dilemma.
Reflecting on how I can go about addressing this aspect as a parent, it got me thinking about how and when one can instill the virtue of gratitude in their children. So, I got digging into the available literature and asked a few parents on how one can instill gratitude.
I was surprised to learn that children as young as 15 to 18 months can begin to grasp concepts that lead to gratitude. Apparently, at that age, infants start to understand that they are dependent that Mum and Dad do things for them. In other words, toddlers comprehend that they are separate human beings from their parents, and that Mum and Dad often perform actions to make them happy, even if they can’t articulate their appreciation.
In addition, I learnt that by age 2 or 3, children can talk about being thankful for specific objects, pets, and people.
“When my daughter Annie was 2, our family would go around the dinner table each night and say one thing we were thankful for,” says Dora, a mother. “Annie wasn’t particularly verbal, but when it was her turn, she would point her finger at every person – she was grateful for us!”
And by age 4, children can understand being thankful, not only for material things like toys, but for acts of kindness, love, and care they receive from others. Since good manners and gratitude overlap, the starting point for instilling gratitude could be fostering good manners.
And since children imitate their parents in every way, I think if we are using words such as ‘Please’ and ‘Thank you’ when we talk to them, that can be a good beginning. So, beyond the words, I have begun integrating gratitude in my daily conversation from appreciation of mundane things such as “I am so happy when you listen!” or “Thank you so much for cleaning up yourself.”
I believe if we reinforce an idea frequently, it is more likely to stick.
Some suggestions which I have received, and which I am yet to have a go at, are picking a ‘Thanking’ part of the day. Two old-fashioned, tried-and-true ideas: make saying what good things happened today part of the dinnertime conversation, or bedtime prayers part of our nightly routine.
The other is to find a goodwill project in which the children can actively participate in helping someone else, even if it is as simple as visiting an orphanage in the neighbourhood and sharing a few material things.
Such an activity would be in a bid to encourage generosity. I frequently donate toys and clothes to less fortunate kids, but I have not been doing it jointly with the children. When our children see us giving to others, it may inspire them to go through their own closets and give something special to one in need, as well.
Ultimately, I am learning that I must practise saying “No.” Of course kids ask for toys, video games, and gorillos – sometimes on an hourly basis. It is difficult, if not impossible, to feel grateful when your every whim is granted.
Saying ‘No’ a lot makes saying ‘Yes’ that much sweeter. And while I don’t expect that gratitude will develop overnight – as it requires weeks, months, even years of reinforcement, I do hope that the effort will be rewarding.
Source : The Observer