As my wife and I were making shopping lists, buying groceries and cleaning the house this past weekend, in preparation for Thanksgiving, I recalled an article I read several years back about the importance of teaching gratitude to children. Gratitude and its products (awareness, compassion, empathy & kindness) are particular goals and characteristics of a Villa Academy education. Pictured here are three fourth graders packing food at Food Lifeline as part of their service learning program.
The article, “Teaching Children to be Grateful” first appeared in American Baby magazine (November 2005) – but I read it more recently in an online version of Parents magazine.
Mindful of the blessings in my life and of all that we, as a community, need to remember this Thanksgiving, I want to share with you some of the more salient points made in the article:
- The Art of Appreciation: 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.
- How to Teach It: Children model their parents in every way, so make sure you use, ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ when you talk to them. Insist on their using the words, too.
- Work Gratitude into Your Daily Conversation: Make saying what good things happened today, part of the dinnertime conversation or make bedtime prayers part of your nightly routine.
- Have Kids Help: 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: ...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.
- Encourage Generosity. "When my daughters see me giving to others, it inspires them to go through their own closets and give something special to those in need, as well."
- Insist on Thank-You Notes: "When they were toddlers, the cards were just scribbles with my own thank-you attached," she says. "As they grew, they became drawings, then longer letters."
- Practice Saying No: Saying no a lot makes saying yes that much sweeter.
- Be Patient: You can't expect gratitude to develop overnight -- it requires weeks, months, even years of reinforcement.
On behalf of the Villa Academy faculty and staff – thank you for your partnership – and Happy Thanksgiving!
John Milroy, Head of School