Today, on my way to work, I was listening to the morning radio show, and they were speaking to a 12-year-old girl who started her very own nonprofit organization when she was just 4 years old (with the help of her mother). At the age of four, her mom had wanted to give her favorite blanket away to charity. Like any other 4-year-old, she wasn’t having it. However, her mother took this opportunity to teach her that there were less fortunate people than herself in the world. A few days later, she took her piggy bank to her mom and asked if she had enough money to buy blankets for everyone that needed them. Of course she didn’t, but her mom knew that there was a way for her to really see the impact she could have on others through giving. From there, her nonprofit A Touch of Warmth was born. To date, her foundation has given over 7,000 blankets to people in need. She is only 12. Imagine what she will do for the world when she is 30!
I literally had tears in my eyes. This girl, at such a young age, had so much love in her heart and an understanding of what it means to truly give back. I only hope I can instill values like this in my own children. I hope they never know what it feels like to need that kind of help, but I do hope they have the empathy to relate to others in such a position and will take actions to improve life for those around them.
The story led me to think a lot on how we can intentionally teach gratitude to our children. These are my five simple tips for raising grateful children:
Walk the Walk
Kids learn so much from their parents. They are little sponges who soak up everything. There are so many times I hear my 5-year-old say something exactly how I said it the day before. They have perfected the impersonations. So why not have them copy behaviors that you want them to copy—like always saying THANK YOU. Make sure you let them know you appreciate them. If they put their dishes in the sink, let them know how grateful you are to them for making your life easier. Thank them for helping around the house, for doing something nice for a sibling, or just for being them. I have said to both my 5-year-old and 2-year-old how very thankful I am for them and their smiles. After they hear this…ahh…all the tears.
Thank You Notes
Such a simple thing, but they always bring a smile to those who receive them. Make sure when they receive a gift from someone they write and send a thank you note. If they are too young to do this, have cards made and let them draw on them. Making sure they know that gifts are a way people show they care will help them appreciate them and not just toss them aside into piles of other toys.
Sometimes kids need to see exactly what it means to be less fortunate or to be down on your luck. A friend of mine took her kids on a ride through a less fortunate neighborhood near their own. They saw people standing in line at the soup kitchen, people asking for money, and makeshift houses made of tents and cardboard. Giving them a real glimpse into the world helps give them perspective. They need that to know how fortunate they are and that there are real things they can do to help improve the lives of others.
Get Them Involved
Create real opportunities for your kids to see their work in action. Whether it is donating old toys or collecting cans for a holiday food bank, let them be involved. If they have a birthday party approaching, suggest they forgo their gifts and ask that everyone bring a gift to be donated to the local children’s hospital. Let them go with you to drop them off and let them see the smiles they get from the patients. They will always remember how giving made them feel, and they will continue it throughout their lives.
We have a family tradition where we go around the table at Thanksgiving and everyone has the chance to say what they are thankful for. This is my very favorite part of any holiday, but you don’t have to wait for a special occasion to do this. Do it often. If you sing or say prayers with your kids at night, ask them to say aloud what they are thankful for each day.