Helping Children Appreciate What They Have
Posted on November 14, 2018 by CHS
As parents or caregivers, we want to provide a quality life for our children and we want them to be happy. However, at times we can focus too much on the material things and less attention is paid on the quality of the care we give children, such as spending time together as a family. This blog will talk about things you can do to encourage your child’s development of appreciation and empathy.
Learning to be appreciative is more than saying thank you when receiving a present and being polite to those around you; it is also about being empathetic. According to Merriam-Webster, empathy is defined as the ability to understand and share the feeling of another person (link below). When a child learns to be empathetic toward others, he understands that he is part of a larger community of individuals. The child understands that the things parents and others do for him are ways of sharing their love for him.
Children can learn gratitude as early as their toddler years. Use words like “thank you” and “please” in your everyday language when you are speaking to your child and others. For example, you can ask your child, “Can I have a bite of your grape please?” and after she shares her grape, give her a hug and say “thank you for sharing your grape with me. I’m very happy!” By integrating these words and actions in your everyday life, your child will not only learn to share, but also learn manners and etiquette as she grows older.
You can also apply these words by asking your child to help with chores around the house. The more your child helps around the house, the more he will appreciate the work you do for him. You can ask him to do various chores based on his age and his ability. For example, putting the toys away, setting the table for a meal, folding laundry, or taking out the trash. Not only will he learn to appreciate your hard work and strong work ethic, but he will also grow up to be a responsible person that will take care of his own responsibilities. You can read more about teaching your child to be responsible on our blog, Raising Responsible Children (link below).
During birthdays and holidays, your child may receive presents from you, relatives, and friends. Use this as an opportunity for your child to learn to give. Ask your child to pick toys that are in good condition and give them away to someone less fortunate. You can also pick a day every six months to go through the toy box and closets together and gather toys and clothes that aren’t played with or worn anymore (in good condition) and donate them to charity. When this is conditioned throughout her childhood, your child will grow to be a giving person who cares for those around him.
It is okay to say no. Children may ask for candy, snacks, new toys, or video games, and it is important to say no some of the time. Saying no guides your child in understanding limitations, impulse control, and appreciation for the things they do have. Setting expectations prior to shopping trips can help prepare your child for the eventual “no” that they may hear. According to Homa Tavangar, the author of 10 Ways to Raise a Grateful Kid from PBS Parents (link below), her psychiatrist husband would tell their child “today is a ‘look’ day. Just like going to the museum, we enjoy the beautiful things, but we aren’t planning to buy anything… We also tried to ensure that there were more ‘look’ days than ‘buy’ days, specifically to inoculate against the idea of always buying things, knowing that it breeds discontent.” Use your judgement on when to say yes. For example, maybe your child cleaned up his room without you having to ask him and you want to give him a reward for his hard work. Saying yes every once in a while will help him learn to appreciate what he earns.
Try to limit the time you and your child spend looking at a screen and using electronics. Teach your child that you can still have fun without electronics. Take your child outside for a walk around a park, play catch, play board games, grab ice cream, or go to the museum; the activities you can do outside are countless! By providing your child with activities that do not involve electronics, your child will gain valuable memories which will shape his childhood. Providing your child with enriching experiences and planned activities spent with family and friends will create lasting memories that the child can remember well into adulthood.
Resources and Sources