How do you practice gratitude in your everyday life? How well do think your children understand the concept of giving thanks?
With Thanksgiving approaching, it's the perfect time of year to reflect on the ways we give thanks for our blessings and how we express gratitude. And for parents, it's a time when we can ask ourselves if we've been successful in instilling a sense of gratitude in our children.
For kids to grow up emotionally-healthy, they need to be able to appreciate and express gratitude in their day-to-day life. You might worry that you haven't done enough to teach your kids to give thanks for everything they have but don't worry. It's never too late to get started! Here are a few ideas on how to make gratitude part of your family values.
Lead By Example
As small children, we model our behaviour after our parents. Monkey see monkey do, right?
As a parent, we need to teach our children how to behave by example. We can't just tell them that they need to say "please and thank you." Instead, we need to demonstrate that kind of behaviour. It can start with something as simple as profusely thanking your toddler whenever they hand you a toy. When they do something like clean their room, be sure to express gratitude for their work. And don't forget to exhibit appreciation when you interact with other people.
"Spoiling" vs. Giving Kids What They Need
Have you ever considered the difference between spoiling your kids, in comparison to giving them what they need?
Back when you were a kid, did you ever hear someone tell your parents that they were spoiling you? Didn't it give you a feeling of puzzlement? What's this idea of "spoiling" really about? When you heard this expression as a child, it probably sounded like you did something wrong, when you did nothing to warrant what seemed like a negative term.
For an expression that's thrown around pretty flippantly, "spoiling" is actually somewhat of a complex parenting idea.
What it boils down to is appreciation.
Parents need to realize the difference between giving their children everything very easily to the point that the kids don't fully appreciate the value of what they're receiving.
It can be hard to appreciate and value things if they came to you very easily and if you're in the habit of receiving every time that you ask. And without understanding the value, it can be hard to express appreciation and gratitude for the many fortunes that we have in Canada.
It's hard to attach value to anything if you don't fully appreciate the circumstances that went into it. It's one of the reasons why nowadays, children tend to have a great many toys but they quickly grow bored with them.
Instead of giving your children everything, consider prioritizing what they need to thrive and succeed in life. And make sure that practicing gratitude is part of those possessions and experiences.
Learn to Say No
If your kids are demanding more, more, more—learning to say "no" is a valuable lesson. It's an important lesson to learn that you can't always get what you want all of the time. Saying no can be difficult, and you might have to deal with some anger from your child. Be sure to hear them out and don't just say "no" for the sake of "teaching them a lesson."
Learning Gratitude Through Extra-Curricular Activities
Let's take dance classes in Toronto as an example of extra-curricular activities that can provide a learning opportunity for kids. For some kids, dance isn't just an enjoyable pastime; it's how they express who they are. Without having that means of artistic expression, they just aren't themselves.
Talk to your kids regularly about the many benefits they enjoy from their activities and remind them to feel grateful for the opportunity. Teach them to be mindful of the enrichment that they're receiving and how it impacts their creativity and personal expression. And make sure to remind them of the amazing community, friends, and teachers that are part of their life because of dance.
Honestly, it doesn't matter what kind of enrichment your child seeks. It could be dance, art, music, sports, computers, math, or anything at all. By giving them access to that enrichment, you're allowing them to express who they are, which can work wonders for self-esteem and confidence. In our dance classes, we've seen children who can barely look someone in the eye from crippling shyness blossom into confident, passionate young people in just a few weeks.
Connect Kids' Passion to Work
One way to instill gratitude in children is to teach them the value of hard work. Now by this, we aren't necessarily talking about money.
Attaching conditions to attending dance classes in Toronto can be a helpful way to teach them gratitude. For example, they might need to keep their room clean if they want to go to class. Or they might need to study hard for a test. However, please keep in mind that not all children excel in academics. If they aren't mathematically minded, what matters is that they try their best, not that they get a 90 every time.
By attaching the value of hard work to their passion, they'll gain a greater understanding of the value of their dance classes. It's a lesson that will also help them appreciate the blessings that they have. Speaking of which...
Teach Kids How Lucky They Are
While you should be encouraging your children's passion to the best of your abilities, they also need to know how lucky they are. There are countless children out there who would do anything to attend weekly Toronto dance classes. Sadly, not all their parents have the resources (or the interest) to take them.
It's impractical to explain how much dance classes cost; the concept of money can be fuzzy at best for a small child). However, you should explain to your young children how fortunate your family is to be able to afford enriching activities like dance classes, sports, etc. Make sure your children understand that not everyone has these opportunities. Generally speaking, families in the Danforth, Leslieville, and the Beaches benefit from a lot of advantages and it's something that kids should learn to appreciate.
Write Thank You Cards
If your child loves school, dance classes, or sports, they probably have a teacher or coach who encourages them; sending a thank you card to those individuals can be a great learning experience. It gives your kids a way to express heartfelt gratitude in a way that they might not feel comfortable doing in person. You can encourage this behaviour with their favourite teachers in school, their doctor, or even the parents of their friends for having them over for dinner. And why not give a thank you note to a fellow child? There are countless opportunities to send thank you notes and your kids can learn the value of saying thanks to the people who impact their lives.
(Also, it kind of melts our hearts here at Pegasus when we get thank you cards from our young students, so there's that too!)
Is Ingratitude a Generational Thing?
Here's the dirty little secret about gratitude in children: all adults think that the current generation of kids is the most ungrateful ever. But here's the thing: if you look back, your parents' generation said the same about your age group when you were children. And their parents probably said the same about them.
The reality is that today's kids face challenges that we couldn't have even dreamed of when we were their ages. Teaching them gratitude is one way to help them better manage those challenges and teach them about what really matters!
Bringing it Home
At Pegasus, we're a family oriented and believe in instilling values in all of our children along with the dance and art that they learn. If you would like to learn more about our Toronto dance classes, we invite you to contact us today! We serve dance students all across the city, including the Danforth, Leslieville, and the Beaches, and we'd love to hear from you! We hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving!