Raising Thankful Kids

By Vanessa Kahlon

Everyone appreciates a 'Thank You'. When people are truly grateful for things, there is an air about them that others do not possess. People who practice expressions of gratitude are much more pleasant to be around than people who take life for granted. People who are thankful for the things life brings their way have more friends, are more employable and are happier than those who feel like the world owes them something for their very existence. Thankfulness begins in early childhood, and is modeled by parents.

How do we raise kids with an attitude of gratitude?

The old saying, "Do what I say, not what I do" doesn't fly when it comes to setting an example of being thankful. Ask yourself,
- Do I thank my kids for things? Do I thank them for not just 'doing', but also for 'being'?
- Do I thank others in the presence of my kids?
- Do I thank people not just by saying, "Thank You"; but by writing notes, doing acts of service, reciprocating kindness etc?

If you buy your kids everything they want, without them having to ever wait for a special occasion, or earn/save money, you are essentially teaching them that money grows on trees - and that it is really easy to get money trees. As a parent, it is normal for you to want to buy your kids things - especially things that they want. By controlling your impulse to indulge them without reason, you're showing them the value of waiting. There's nothing wrong with having nice things, but remember that 'things' are temporary and no amount of possessions will ever build character or satisfy your soul. Once your kids start getting everything, they'll start expecting it. Are you ready for that kind of thing?

Maybe your kids' toy box is overflowing and messing up the whole house. Do they really need all those toys? Are they even all age/developmentally appropriate? Could you think of someone who has less toys - or could you give some to Goodwill? (When explaining concepts like 'Goodwill' be specific - my Mom used to say, "We are giving these clothes to the poor kids" and I had no idea what that meant. In my mind there was some village of kids kicking around a can and wearing my clothes.) Being thankful with what we have stems from knowing that we don't need everything. If you teach your kids to live without things, you're breaking the attachment they have to their belongings. You can actually raise kids who value people over possessions.

Kids with social differences are likely be deeply impacted by the idea of poverty and/or the third world, in a different way to typically developing children. Remember, the poverty line exists in our own backyard - you may need to travel abroad to find people without clean water, but we don't need to go to Africa to find hungry kids. There is a fine line between creating awareness of the good things we enjoy, without making a child feel guilty for having tasty food, new electronics and fashionable clothing. Keep dialog open about how lucky they are to have the 'extra' things in life, but always in a positive light. Monitor how your child processes profound concepts like poverty - if it is disturbing to them, try and uncover what is bothering them so much. (It is likely that they fear being in poverty themselves, and you can explain why that is extremely unlikely to happen.)

Some people say grace before meals, others talk about things they are thankful for on car trips or around the dinner table in conversations. I have found that parents know good times of the day when children are open and receptive to deeper- level conversations, and taking those opportunities as teachable moments will not only build the relationship you have with your child, it will also give you a window into their developing minds.

Happy Thanksgiving! May you have fun with your family, have safe travels and enjoy much turkey/tofurky
Wishing you all the best from the team at Kahlon Family Services

Vanessa L. Kahlon, MA Founder & Executive Director Kahlon Family Services, LLC Behaviour and Early Intervention Services
Yoga Education for Autism Spectrum (YEAS) 415-971-8214