Episode 32: Gratitude in Kids
When the world seems so broken, it means even more for our kids to feel grateful for what they have...
Recently, while walking down the street, our daughter thanked us for her day and told me how much she appreciated how hard her dad and I work to provide for her and how thankful she is for everything we do for her. A woman nearby made a comment about how lovely it was to overhear. This moment brought tears to my eyes because this type of conversation did not come easy. Gratitude in kids is something we struggle with all the time…
We’ve had a rough couple years during the pandemic (as many kids have) so to be to a place where my child can say this to me truly means a lot. When I have shared my journey in the past, I received an overwhelming number of responses from many of you asking me what changed or what we did for this to happen. I cannot say that there is any magic formula or one book or any one thing we did. I also can’t guarantee that this appreciation towards us will be there 100% of the time as kids are kids and they will have their ups and downs (like we do). But I can tell you some things that (I think) helped us get here…
1. Expose them to some of our world and what we do for them
I’ve been reading Hunt, Gather, Parent and so much of what they talk about is including kids in things you think they don’t need to be involved in. I mentioned this briefly in my last episode about mattering, but the more you involve them (in age-appropriate ways), the more they understand their parents and want to help contribute to the family. This includes: chores around the house, walking the dog, taking care of the garden, coming with you to pick up toilet paper at the grocery store even when you don’t want to, etc.
2. Share your actual day with them
Also, when it comes to work and they ask you, “How was your day?”, tell them some things that actually happened. Tell them the annoying stuff or the frustrating things. Tell them what made you happy at work, and why you like your job. Tell them all the fires you had to put out at work. They want to know more than you think, and it will allow them to see you as a person outside of your role at their parent.
3. Discuss the costs of things
As kids get older, their understanding of money evolves. I started reading Make Your Kid a Money Genius a while ago which was very helpful. A 5-year-old has no idea what $100 vs $100,000 means. But a 12-year-old has a much better sense. Kids might not often know what’s considered expensive or cheap, but my kids ask a lot of questions on how much things cost (a car, a house, etc.). I always try to explain the range of possible prices so they understand there is no one standard cost for some of these bigger ticket items. Everyone’s situation is different and affects what they decide to spend on something like a car or a house. In getting them acquainted with costs, they can begin to see the range of prices everyday things. For example, when buying clothes they can begin to consider how much to spend on something like a tee shirt. Understanding the range of costs that exist also helps them realize the full range of what people have—or don’t have—in the world.
4. Expect them to use their own money to buy stuff
My kids don’t get allowance currently. And, they don’t get money from the tooth fairy (she brings small treasures instead). I personally think they should help around the house as part of their contribution to our family instead of doing these things to make money. We may decide to change this in the future as they get older, but for now that’s how it is in our house.
So, the only time my kids get money is from birthday or holiday gifts from grandparents. They save that money and are allowed to use it to buy things they want for themselves that are outside the standard things we provide for them. All items need to be approved by us in advance. There have been a few times they have regretted getting something (like a cheap toy) because it broke really fast or didn’t work as they had hoped. And those are the types of lessons we want them to learn when making a decision to buy something. The impact isn’t real from until it’s from their own pocket.
5. Allow kids to see you upset and vulnerable
I broke down (a lot) during the pandemic as I am sure many of you did as well. The stress of all of the things (financial, work, safety, health, business, and the world at large) was too much to bear at times. At first, I really tried to be strong for my kids so they didn’t worry about this pandemic that was (at first) a new part of our lives. But after 6 months, a year, a year and a half…I couldn’t always keep my sadness, stress, or anxiety inside. They’ve seen me break down and cry, be sad, and feel overwhelmed. And they always come to comfort me in the way that kids are taught to help friends in need. While I felt bad about letting my kids see that side of me, they have since become much more aware of all the things I do for them on a daily basis.
6. Show your gratitude to others in the family for everyday things
Whether it’s thanking your partner for doing the drive on the long road trip or to your kid for helping their sibling out unexpectedly, share and show that you noticed and tell them so!
I’m sure there are more things I am not thinking of, but those are the things that I think helped us. Remember I am no parenting expert, just a parent living my life and sharing what I’ve experienced. But what I have learned is that honesty with kids (at a level that makes sense for their age) builds up trust and respect when they feel part of your world – especially as they get older. If you have any of your own tips or experiences, please share with me!
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Jumbo playful bouquet of flowers image created by me with Midjourney AI.