I am always looking for blog post ideas. It can be a little overwhelming to come up with weekly topics, and I always appreciate your suggestions. Please keep them coming. Teaching gratitude was one that came up, but I wasn't sure how to approach this one and have thought about it for months. I realized that it is an important thing to be thinking about at this time of year when many of us are receiving and giving gifts. I give gifts with no expectations but I also know that's not true for everyone. And, who doesn't want to be appreciated for what they've done whether it's giving a gift or showing kindness in some way?
Of course, we want our children to show gratitude for things that they're given or things people have done for them. In past generations, thank-you notes were a staple. Now, I can't think of very many people who send them, though there are a few. In my classes, parents often remind their children to thank me when I had out instruments or props, while others just thank me themselves. Some don't even do that, which is fine, maybe they're distracted or just not thinking about it. I have never looked at it as a requirement. Occasionally, I get thank-you cards from my families, which is always very sweet. I'd like to believe that children who are encouraged at a very young age, will get it, but I know that might be a little naive.
The best way to teach anything is by modeling the behavior we want to encourage. Some children pick up on manners easily just by observing, while others don't. My grandson was not one of those who picked it up easily, though he certainly was taught well. I remember one Christmas Day at my parents' house when he was given a gift that we all knew he had asked for. My mother had checked beforehand to be sure that she got something he would love because he often made disparaging remarks about gifts given to him, or just rudely tossed them aside. We had no idea that someone else had already gifted him this lego set that he now opened. When he saw it, he rolled his eyes and said in a very snotty tone, "Oh great, I already have this!" Then he tossed it aside. His mother and I got up simultaneously, she reached him first and hauled him outside. You can guess the rest of the story except that, he was a very stubborn child and never made amends. He had consequences, limits and more consequences throughout his childhood and was just his own person. Nothing anyone did seemed to make any difference. Now, he is a wonderful adult, thoughtful and kind, and he expresses gratitude. But as a child ...
So the short answer is, I don't really know how to teach gratitude. I think the best we can do is encourage it along with other behaviors and start nice and early so that it's second nature. I know that it doesn't work to punish or push too hard. I think sometimes we just have to hope for the best. I also know that eventually children grow up and find their own way. Hopefully, like with my grandson, the lessons stick.
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