Saturday, November 7, 2009

Teaching Children Gratitude

Two of my friends and I have a little co-op homeschool preschool for our three four-year-olds and their younger siblings. This month we are focusing on gratitude and giving. I've been giving lots of thought to how we teach our children these core values. The first step of course is to model gratitude, thankfulness, and charity by giving to food and clothing drives, giving what we no longer use to others who would use it, and giving thanks for our blessings like food. We say thank you at our house. We express joy when we something wonderful comes to us, from a ripe peach to a new pair of shoes. And we take care of our belongings and those we love.

'Tis the season for food and clothing drives, so several times during the month I will let my daughter pick out a few extra nonperishable groceries and drop them in the box herself, discussing that this food is for people who maybe don't have enough food right now. We do, so we can share. At preschool next week we are going to play "store," one of my daughter's favorite imaginary games, and our store will have a food drive. My daughter loves to give things, so this will be fun and natural for her.

Throughout the year we discuss if we are "done" with a toy and ready to give it away, either to a younger child like her cousin or to the ARC for someone else to play with. I think this Yule we will do something more formal and buy a new toy for a toy drive.

Generosity is part of gratitude and giving; the other piece is appreciating what we have. I want to include saying grace at our table more regularly. When we do, we remember to thank the food itself. Since we garden and raise chickens, thanking the garden and the chickens who laid the eggs has a reality about it that my daughter gets. As she get older we will discuss where the rest of our food comes from as well. For now we thank the plants, the meat, the earth, the Sun, and the people who prepared the food. Since she is four, my daughter will go from a genuine "Thanks for cooking Dad" (yes she really says this sometimes) to grumping about the food because it's all mixed together. She has been known to say that eating is boring. I want to say, "Tell that to those who don't have enough to eat," but I don't. I don't want to scare her, just instill the foundation for her figuring this out on her own as she grows older.

I'd love to hear other ideas from you, reader. How do we raise our children in a culture of gratitude and compassion?

May you and yours have all you need and more.

No comments: