Breaking news: An expression of gratitude doesn’t just make the recipient happy and the giver civil, it actually improves health, resilience and emotional well- being, different studies by different psychologists have revealed.
Good stuff, if you ask me, but as an exhausted father that I shared with this week would like to know: How do parents inculcate an attitude of gratitude in children when it is not a secret that babies are born selfish? Or as my pastor would like to put it, children are born sinners instead of the little innocent angels their parents would like to make them out to be.
Well, we all know that babies and small children in general naturally care the most about getting their needs met, until of course with the help of their parents they reach an age where they can figure out that their own actions affect other people either in a good or bad way. My preschoolers are at that age now where even though they know how to ask nicely and to say their thank yous, it’s still a struggle to get them to be consistent, especially when it comes to asking.
I must however say that despite the lapses, and they are many, such as when I am rudely asked for food or for money, I feel that in my house we are on the right track to learning to be grateful.
Children generally learn by copying their parents and I said to the concerned father who didn’t want to raise a spoiled little brat who won’t share his toys; as long as the parent keeps demonstrating the attitude of gratitude, the child would eventually follow suit, I would want to believe.
The road however is long and fraught with stress, doubts and exhaustion. But then again as my older my friend, a single mother who raised two grown up children would tell anyone who cares to listen to her: “Parenting is not for cowards.”
What I have discovered as a good opportunity to teach my children to express gratitude is prayer time, which in my house happens just before bed time.
Last weekend was a great example because I went out of my way to make sure they attend their fun filled friend’s birthday party at Lion’s Park although I would have loved to spend my Saturday afternoon sleeping because I was not well. At prayer time they thanked God for the fun they had at Lion Park and for helping mummy take them there and asked Him (God) to heal mummy’s eye!
The younger one was obviously copying the older but I want to believe that they knew what they were talking about because they had demanded, requested nicely and literally begged to be taken there for months and it never happened, so they were quite grateful their request was finally answered.
Another demonstration to show that the kids knew know what to be grateful for was when the younger one thanked God for auntie Alice and the prayer went something like this: “Thank you Lord for auntie Alice. Not auntie Alice in Zimbabwe at granny’s house but my friend Alice who lives at the end of our street and gives me sweets. The nice one who sells sweets at her house Lord. I mean the one who walks like this.” (standing up to demonstrate and causing me to laugh out loud and stop the prayer right there!)
Anyway for those who believe in the power of prayer try it, it might do your kids some good and for those who don’t: please share with us other means of teaching kids gratitude at firstname.lastname@example.org