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Does it seem like the more you give your child the less thankful they are? Does it even border on the idea that they feel like they should get everything they ask for? And when they don’t get it, the world is ending for them? One of the most difficult things for young children to learn is gratitude and being thankful for everything they have. Gratitude is one of the trickiest concepts to teach toddlers and preschoolers, who are by nature self-centered, but one of the most important. Sure, thankful children are more polite and pleasant to be around, but there's more to it than that. By learning gratitude, they become sensitive to the feelings of others, developing empathy and other life skills along the way.

Grateful kids look outside their one-person universe and understand that their parents and other people do things for them; prepare dinner, dole out hugs, buy toys. On the flip side, kids who don't understand and aren't taught to be grateful end up feeling entitled and perpetually disappointed.

The good thing is that it can be easier than you think. There are many things you can do to get your children to learn the skill of being grateful.'

Work gratitude into your daily conversation. Try to weave appreciation for mundane things into your everyday talk your children. Things like, “Aren't the colors in the sunset amazing?" "I'm so happy when you listen!". When you reinforce an idea frequently, it's more likely to stick. One way to turn up the gratitude in your house is to pick 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 make bedtime prayers part of your nightly routine.

Have kids help. It happens to all of us: You give your child a chore, but it's too agonizing watching him a) take forever to clear the table or b) make a huge mess mixing the pancake batter. The temptation is always to step in and do it yourself. But the more you do for them, the less they appreciate your efforts. (Don't you feel more empathy for people who work outside on cold days when you've just been out shoveling snow yourself?) By participating in simple household chores like feeding the dog or stacking dirty dishes on the counter, kids realize that all these things take effort.

Find a goodwill project. That doesn't mean you need to drag your toddler off to a soup kitchen every week, instead, figure out some way he can actively participate in helping someone else, even if it's as simple as making cupcakes for a sick neighbor or family member. As you're stirring the batter or adding sprinkles, talk about how you're making them for a special person, and how happy the recipient will be.

Encourage generosity. Have your children find toys and games that they no longer play with and have them donate them to charities that benefit less fortunate children. You can also do the same things with your own things that you no longer use. Explain to your children what they are doing and how they are helping others.

Insist on thank-you notes. Make sure that your children always give thank you notes for gifts received no matter how simple, expensive or who they are from. When kids actively participate in things like this it gives them ownership and puts the thought of being thankful for what they get.

Practice saying no. Of course, kids ask for toys, video games, and candy -- sometimes on an hourly basis. It's difficult, if not impossible, to feel grateful when your every whim is granted. Saying no makes saying yes that much sweeter.

Be patient. You can't expect gratitude to develop overnight -- it requires weeks, months, even years of reinforcement. But trust me, you will be rewarded. You will see your child grow into a grateful person who appreciates the things they get and they will have more friends and people will be saying what grateful children you have.

I hope this message has been used and can help you and your children in some way.

Yours Truly for Awesome and Amazing Kids,

Sensei Randy Kopke



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