Encouraging Thankfulness in Children
By Ms. Marty Shepard
With Thanksgiving coming up at the end of the month, it is an especially good time to think about how we can encourage our children to be thankful. As I think about the letters T-H-A-N-K-F-U-L, an acrostic poem helps illustrate a few useful tips.
The “T” in Thanksgiving stands for telling stories. The children enjoy a good story. In the Montessori classroom, we give the children stories to illustrate how human beings have lived and what accomplishments they have left to us. Parents can participate as well by telling stories about their own lives. What was it like when you were growing up, Mom? Dad? What about the Grandparents? Their life was different. We’ve come from then to now. This gives children a sense of place in the progression of their family and an appreciation of why things are the way they are now.
The “H” is for hardworking. When the children do want something, give them an opportunity to work for it. Resist the urge to shower them with too much “stuff.” Let them save their own money and work toward getting something they really want. They will appreciate it more and understand the value of a dollar because it took hard work to get. Additionally, they will take ownership of what they buy and want to take better care of it.
The “A” is for appreciating. Making a list of everything and everyone they are thankful for can be an uplifting activity for children. They can be thankful for acts of love and kindness as well. Each day they can share something they are thankful for. Each member of the family can also take turns to share. Additionally, writing Thank You Letters is a great way to express appreciation. In the classroom, we talk about appreciating others, including those who have come before us and have left so many inventions for us to use from the computer to the car to the cell phone and to even furniture such as the chair.
The “N” is for neighbor. Notice your neighbors, those who are around you, and help them. Each day presents opportunities for the child to help someone by smiling at them, saying a kind word, sharing a funny story or just helping them out in some small way. In the classroom, we encourage the children to help each other by pairing younger children with older children as a role model, holding open doors, seating them in collaborative groups so they can ask each other questions, and more.
The “K” is for kindness. Expressing kindness through respect and grace and courtesy is a great way to reach out to others. In the Montessori classroom we give grace and courtesy lessons, and encourage the children to practice it daily with each other. Your child can practice saying please and thank you in a variety of situations. Parents can role model this politeness by expressing it in front of their children in daily living.
The “F” is for focusing. Focusing on others before themselves, is a great way to feel a sense of purpose, belonging and gratitude. In the Montessori classroom, we encourage children to focus on respecting another’s needs and point of view. With parents, children can volunteer for organizations that support people in need, participating in walks or runs that raise money for a good cause or simply help a neighbor in need.
The “U” is for understanding. The children begin to understand it is more than just about them. It is about everyone. In the Montessori classroom, we share the story of bread, illustrating how many people are involved from farmer to shop keeper to getting our bread that we enjoy eating. The realization that everyone does their part to arrive at getting everything they need, increasing their appreciation and understanding for all those they don’t even know about.
The “L” is for love. Children come to love not only their own family, but their neighbors, their community, those less fortunate and the whole world. This love for all humankind helps them to be less focused on themselves, wanting to give to others, and being grateful for what they have. They come to realize they are a part of a bigger picture of all human beings and they have a very special role to play in it.
With this acrostic poem of being “THANKFUL,” the children can experience gratitude for the many opportunities and people in their lives and feel thankful not only at this time of year, but throughout all the years to come.