Teaching Your Charges to Be Thankful
by jen webb
Thankfulness is a learned skill. Thanksgiving is the perfect time of year to take the opportunity to emphasize the importance of showing thanks and kindness toward others. By learning gratitude, children will become sensitive to the feelings of others and develop compassion. As nannies, we need to model thankfulness on a daily basis and expose children to a variety of ways to show kindness and gratitude. Check out these ten ways to teach children to be thankful on a daily basis.
Model Appreciation when Your Charges Are Helpful
Say “thank you” to your charges every time they do something thoughtful or helpful. Explain what you are thankful for and why you are thankful. Some examples: “Thank you for that hug; it was so thoughtful of you” or “Thank you for throwing the napkin in the trash; I really appreciate your help in cleaning up.” When you thank your charges for their thoughtfulness, they will mimic you and begin to thank you for your thoughtfulness too.
Talk to Your Charges about Thankfulness
Have discussions with your charges about thankfulness. Ask them who they are thankful for, what they are thankful for, and why they are thankful for these things and people in their lives. Having conversations about thankfulness to teach the children you care for how to express feelings of gratitude.
Teach Your Charges to Appreciate Gifts
When your charges receive a gift from someone, teach them to appreciate it. Have them make a card or draw a picture for the person who gave them the gift to thank them.
Read Stories about Gratitude and Appreciation
Expose your charges to a variety of children’s books that emphasize appreciation and thankfulness toward others. Read these books with your charges and discuss the concept of gratitude in the story. Ask questions throughout the story to ensure their understanding. For example, ask what the character is thankful for and how that character is showing thankfulness.
A few great books that teach children about gratitude are:
- “Thanksgiving Is for Giving Thanks” by Margaret Sutherland
- “The Thankful Book” by Todd Parr
- “Those Shoes” by Maribeth Boelts
- “Reach Out and Give” by Cheri J. Meiners, M.Ed.
- “Just So Thankful” by Mercer Mayer
Model Thankfulness when Others Do Something Thoughtful for You
Thank people for the simple things they do for you when your charges are with you. Explain to your charges why you thanked that person. For example, if someone holds the door open for you, thank them. Then say to your charge, “I really appreciate that person holding the door open for us. That was so nice of them.”
Point out when Your Charges Show Kindness or Thankfulness
When you notice your charges going out of their way to show gratitude or kindness toward others, point it out to them. For instance, when you give your charges a snack and they say “thank you,” reply with, “Wow, you are so polite! You are welcome, thank you for saying thank you.” This encourages children to continue to express thanks when kindness is shown to them.
Turn a Negative into a Positive
Gratitude and appreciation will show children what is good about any situation. It can turn a negative situation into a positive one. For example, it is raining and everyone is sad that they cannot go outside and play. Point out what you are grateful for to your charges. “I am so grateful that it is raining because we can go to the IMAX theater at the aquarium and watch a show about sharks.”
Give to Those in Need
Help your charges to give to those in need. This will help them to appreciate what they have in their lives. You can do this in a variety of ways.
- Sponsor a child. Your charge can write letters or draw pictures to your sponsored child. You can read your charge the letters that your sponsored child sends to you. When children learn about other children in need, they form a bigger appreciation for what they have in their lives.
- Donate to local shelters. Find out what items local shelters need and go with your charges to the store and have them pick out items to bring to the shelter.
- Toy drives. During the holidays, look up local toy drives and have your charge help in the process of donating toys to the drives.
Donating to those in need will help children develop compassion for others while helping them to realize how fortunate they are themselves.
Have Your Charges Help with Household Chores
When children help clean up, they will understand what it is like to do the chores you do around the house. They will develop empathy for you and appreciate what you do for them by helping. For example, when you do laundry, ask them to help fold the clothes with you.
Create Thanksgiving Crafts
As Thanksgiving approaches, do creative crafts with your charges that focus on showing and giving thanks toward others. The Enchanted Learning website has great Thanksgiving crafts. The Thankful Turkey Craft is one of my favorites.
Gratitude is a gradually learned skill. Children learn by observing and experiencing, and when you expose them to a variety of ways to be thankful on a daily basis, they will begin to express their thankfulness and develop compassion for others.