Gratitude. Thankfulness. Appreciation. These are attributes we try to teach and model for our 6-year-old son. But can I just be honest? This is quite a task when we are surrounded by slick marketing to children, peer pressure and a seemingly pervasive air of “gimmie, I want that” or “I need that!” There never seems to be enough stuff or satisfaction with what you already have.
I think as parents, we want to do everything in our power to raise happy, healthy, well-adjusted kids. You’d probably also like your children to have nice things. These are not bad desires, but for us, we try to do an occasional “check in” to make sure there is balance regarding wants and needs.
When Harrison was younger, it was so easy to always let him pick something out when we’d go to the grocery store or Target. Because this happened every time we’d go out, it suddenly became an expectation for him. And he definitely wasn’t appreciative about it. It was time for an intervention! My husband and I discussed things and decided to start telling our son before we went out that he could look at toys, but that we would not be buying anything. But we’d also share with him how blessed he was to have so many toys at home. Needless to say, this was met with some resistance at first.
But after a period of time, we noticed that he was fine with just looking. And when we’d get home he was quite content playing with his own toys. Now there are still times when we go out and he may get him something, but now it’s no longer an expectation, and he seems to be more appreciative of it.
Please don’t think I’m saying we’ve arrived when it comes to establishing these traits in our son. We’re still working on saying “please” and “thank you” on a consistent basis! We are also well aware these things take time, patience and consistency on our part. When it comes to building character traits, it isn’t a sprint. It’s a marathon.
Another way we are trying to help Harrison be more appreciative and thankful is by sharing with him about the needs of others. There are many people out in the world who aren’t as fortunate as he is. They don’t have food to eat or a roof over their heads. I realize you may have to discern when to have these conversations, so that your children can understand, but it’s so true that they learn from our example.
A little over a month ago, my husband was out with Harrison. At a stoplight there was a gentleman holding up a sign. My husband couldn’t read the sign, but it was evident he needed some help. My husband gave the man whatever cash he happened to have on him. This opened the gate for Harrison to flood my husband with questions. “How did he get there? Why doesn’t he have a home? Does he have food? How will he get married?”
Obviously, my husband didn’t have the answers for all of his questions, but what he did try to convey was that sometimes people get in really tough spots and don’t have a home or food, and just need some help. And when we can, we should give them a little help. We can also pray for that man to get the help he needs.
A couple of weeks ago I was at that same stoplight with Harrison, and he remembered what his daddy did. He explained to me about how there was a man with no home and daddy gave him some money to help. “And mommy, it’s good to help people who don’t have food or a home, right?” Talk about a heartwarming moment. He’s becoming aware of the needs of others, and that blesses us. And with the holidays coming up, I believe we will have the opportunity to take advantage of more teaching moments like this, whether it’s helping serve at a soup kitchen for Thanksgiving, or buying presents at Christmas for a family that may not get to have a Christmas.
Sometimes we see the fruits of our labor right away and sometimes we don’t. But we know that one day we will finish the marathon of sowing the seeds of gratitude, thankfulness and appreciation, and hopefully reap the harvest of a kind, caring and thankful son who is eager to help others.