Nurture Thankfulness in Your Child

By: Brenda Nixon

Among the early words you teach your tot are “thank you.” Youngchildren need prompts like, “What do you say to Aunt Becky?” Hopefully,over time, it becomes an automatic response. But parents need tocontinue teaching an attitude of thanks even to teenagers. As youcelebrate the busy holiday season, utilize every moment as anopportunity to nurture thankfulness in your child. Incorporate thesefree and simple ways into your family life:

Live the Lesson

Ithas been said that we’re always teaching; sometimes we use words.Remember to say “thank you” to others, but more importantly, live alife of appreciation. Your children are watching their first and mostinfluential teacher!

Notice Nature

Encourageyour child to appreciate the inspiration that surrounds him. Marvel atthe power of the wind, the immensity of the ocean, the perfection of asnowflake, the night sky, or the rugged beauty of a mountain range.I’ve reminded my girls of the saying of Goethe, “Nature is the living,visible garment of God.”

Convert Attitude into Action

Asmall gesture, such as a smile, can lighten the day of the waitress whohands your child a glass of milk or a hug for the teacher is alwayswelcome. When a child empties the dishwasher, it is an action ofappreciation for home and food. Thankfulness is also expressed throughhomemade cards and drawings. To appreciate their classroom teachers, mygirls and I always made little gifts for them at the holidays.

Discover Dictionary Descriptions

Althoughwe have our own terms to explain thankfulness, it helps to see newdefinitions. Go to the library and see what a variety of dictionariessay about the word. I like what The Webster’s Dictionary says,”Impressed with a sense of kindness received,” because it takes thefocus off a material possession and puts it on an attitude.
Inresearching for this article, I found websites that offer all types ofquotes. A humorous one about thanks comes from Woody Allen, “I amthankful for laughter, except when milk comes out of my nose.”

Contrast Your Family with Folks Less Fortunate

Helpyour child see that there are those in your community who aren’t asblessed: families without homes, people who are sad and living alone,or those who must go to food kitchens to eat. When my daughters wereyoung, one of our family traditions was to serve a meal to thehomeless. My husband, two daughters, and I spent one evening at arescue mission every Autumn. After seeing the faces of those acceptinga plate of food and their expressions of thanks, my daughters quicklyappreciated going back home to their safe, cozy bedrooms.

Make a Medley of Thankfulness

Graba pile of old magazines. Encourage your child to look through the pagesand cut out pictures of things for which they are thankful. Glue theseon one page, overlapping pictures. Soon your child will have a visualreminder of the blessings in his life.

Pen a Poem of Thankfulness

Togetherwith your child, try to write words that rhyme with thanks, gratitudeor thankful. This can be a fun, language learning time also.

Practice Gratitude Permanently

Showingthanks and appreciation need not end with this time of year. I believeletter writing is becoming a lost art. Help your child write thank younotes for their Christmas gifts. Preschoolers can dictate to you theirgratitude or express thanks by drawing a picture of their appreciationfor their gift-giver. Find opportunities during this upcoming year toreinforce your lesson. For more ideas on teaching children about goodmanners and attitudes go to

Asa parent, I hope my children learn to be thankful by the way I live mylife before them. After all, as William Bennett said in his book, The Moral Compass: Stories for a Life’s Journey, “Sometimes we need to remind ourselves that thankfulness is indeed a virtue.”

As a parenting speaker, educator, andauthor Brenda Nixon desires to build stronger families through parentempowerment. For free tips, articles, her books, tapes, and speakingtopics go to

*Article reprinted with permission from the author Brenda Nixon

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