Teach Your Child to Give Thanks and Give Back This Holiday Season

When we instill in our children an attitude of gratitude and the spirit of giving, we are giving them an invaluable gift.
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Last Updated
April 22, 2019
posted on
November 17, 2021
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6 min
Minute Read

Just because the world shut down in 2020, doesn’t mean Americans stopped shopping. In fact, we spent over $790 billion online last year. That’s up 32.4% from 2019. A figure that is as shocking to e-commerce experts as it is to you and me.

What does this tell us? Even in the midst of a pandemic, Americans are big-time consumers. In fact, we probably consume more during times of stress, anxiety, and difficulty than during non-pandemic times.

These numbers might look depressing to you, but I think they present an excellent opportunity for parents this holiday season.

With Thanksgiving upon us, what better time to teach your child the antidote to our American obsession with having more, more, more: giving thanks and giving back?

When we instill in our children an attitude of gratitude and the spirit of giving, we are giving them an invaluable gift. A posture of gratitude and a habit of giving to others—whether that’s with money, resources, or time—will serve your child well in adulthood. It will strengthen her character, teach her humility, and help her go far in life while caring for others along the way.

Gratitude

Gratitude doesn’t come naturally to our kids. This is why we have to teach our children to say thank you. They aren’t going to do it on their own. 

This isn’t your child’s fault. It’s simply how children develop. We are wired to be egocentric, especially when we’re young. To children, it feels like the world revolves around them. Their needs are what they think of, not others, so they don’t think to be grateful for what they have.

This is why it’s so important to teach your child to resist this natural instinct, consider those around them, and notice the numerous things they have to be grateful for each day: family, friends, food, playing outside.

Use Thanksgiving and the days leading up to it, to make a gratitude list with your child. Each day ask what he is thankful for and add it to the list. Keep the list up on the fridge or somewhere the whole family can see it.

As your child sees the list get longer and longer, he will realize all he has to be grateful for and he will develop a daily habit of gratitude, which will be incredibly beneficial to him now and as he grows into an adult.

Giving

Instilling gratitude is done less by words than actions and experience. This is why the practice of giving back to your community is so powerful for kids. When they see others who are in need and how simple it is to help them, they will not only feel gratitude for what they have, but they will also experience the joy that is giving back to their neighbors and community.

You can start this at an early age with your kids. Do something simple such as donating the clothes she’s grown out of to Goodwill or a local charity shop, make holiday cards for neighbors, or bake something to share with a friend. Start small and then let your child think of ways she would like to help using her specific gifts and talents. You’ll probably be amazed at what your kid comes up with.

If you’re not sure your child will be up for making a gratitude list or doing a service project, I highly encourage you to check out my course “Teach Gratitude and Humility,” where I teach you exactly how to teach your child gratitude and humility in a way that will strengthen her character, even for the most resistant child.

This course is only available through my online parenting community, Parenting Great Kids (PGK). It’s your one-stop shop for all of my courses and parenting tips, including how to discipline your child, how to have “that talk” with your child, and so much more.

Join the PGK community today by clicking here. When you do, you’ll join a community of parents with the same questions and concerns you have. You will also gain access to me—I check in on PGK regularly to answer your questions and provide new courses and material to meet all of your parenting needs. I hope you can join us.

Just because consumerism is at an all-time high, doesn’t mean you and your family have to follow the trend. Use this Thanksgiving and holiday season to instill that attitude of gratitude in your child and see how it changes him, and how it changes you.

Dr. Meg Meeker, MD

Practicing pediatrician, parent, grandparent, coach, speaker, and author. Say hello @MegMeekerMD

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