I am still amazed at how often I notice adults not exercising the practice of appreciation and gratitude. It is the little things, like when someone lets you turn into traffic ahead of them and you wave "thanks" as you pull out in front of them, or when someone holds the door open at the gas station, or stops the elevator doors from closing so you can get on. In any of these situations I would be mortified if I didn't take a second to say "thank you". But I do see this behavior all the time, where people could care less about thanking anybody. It makes me wonder "weren't these people raised to say thanks" and "I wonder how their kids will learn to be thankful?" Showing gratitude and appreciation is an important value to put upon our children, and it is an easy lesson to teach.
First and foremost is teaching by example. When your kids see you act in a thankful manner, they will see it as a normal way to behave. Not only is it nice for children to see you being appreciative of others, but of themselves too. Next time your child gives you a spontaneous hug, be sure and let them know how much you appreciate it.
We've all seen children receive gifts they do not like, or which is a duplicate of what they already have. Be sure to give a reminder to younger tots about how their reaction may effect the gift giver. No child wants to deliberately hurt someone's feelings. Let them know if their is a problem with the gift, you will help them to work out a solution after the fact.
Third, and perhaps the best lesson of all, is perspective. Some children have no concept of the fact there are other children who can only dream of what they have. Take the opportunity to have your child participate in a toy drive, food pantry or children's hospital cheer group. Not only will they see what other kids go through, but they'll be on the receiving end of the appreciation...and that is a gift all its own. Part of knowing how to be thankful comes from knowing what it is like to give.
Finally, there doesn't need to be a special occasion to recognize the many things to be thankful for. Thanks can be given any day of the year. Teach your kids to appreciate what it means to be healthy and to have people in their lives who love them. That is what they want most anyway, remind them how lucky they are to have it.
For more tips on getting the attitude of gratitude across to your kids, check out Parentdish.com.