Stuffing Your Child with an Attitude of Gratitude
Are you developing an attitude of gratitude in your child?
All children come into this world egocentric and self-centered – they are programmed this way for survival. As an infant, their main focus is to make sure they get their needs met but it is your job as a parent to gradually teach your child there is another world beyond him or herself.
If your child is on the autism spectrum this may be a bit more challenging because a child with autism often struggles with social interactions and prefers to be left alone. Unfortunately, allowing your child to withdraw from others is not going to help him or her become an independent and caring person.
One of the most powerful gifts a parent can give a child is to nurture a quality connection with the outside world. Encouraging your child to develop a positive link to other human beings will help everyone thrive. When you connect your child to the larger community it broadens their capacity for empathy, something all children need to expand.
Exposing your child to a world beyond the family living quarters will broaden her social skills, something every child needs to practice. I have heard parents say that it’s not worth dragging a resistant child out of the house because he will only tantrum. But what are you teaching your child if you adhere to that philosophy?
In the long run don’t you want your child to maximize his caring quota and social potential?
It takes time, patience and consistency to create an attitude of gratitude in a child but it is well worth the effort. The approaching holidays are a great time to promote your child’s thinking from the typical self-centered and materialistic mindset toward a path of gratitude, appreciation and service to her community.
Here are a few steps to take that will help you enhance your child’s attitude of gratitude.
1) Start a family gratitude jar then use it to decorate the house. One of the best ways to instill a value in your child is to do it together as a family. Identify a time such as breakfast, dinner or bedtime when everyone can write down something they are grateful for and make it a daily event. You may even want to decorate a jar, box or other container to collect everyone’s thoughts on strips of colored paper. As the next holiday arrives and you are ready to decorate the house, take them all out and tape them together to make a chain of gratitude.
2) Encourage community service. Identify people in your community that are less fortunate and brainstorm a list of things you can do to bring sunshine into their life then do it together as a family. Explore your community to find agencies or churches that request volunteers and find a good fit for you and your family. As your child gets older and acquires more social skills encourage her to do this independently and make it a year round event.
3) Live an appreciative lifestyle. In addition to role modeling language that shows appreciation and gratitude for the people in your life do the same for the personal possessions you have as well. Yes, items can be replaced but learning to take good care of our belongings helps to minimize waste and demonstrates respect and appreciation for what we have. Always pay attention to your actions as well as your words because every behavior teaches your child something.
4) Simplify your holidays. If your children engage in the tradition of making a list of what they want, try placing limits on the number of wishes they make and remind them that not all desires may be granted. In addition encourage them to make a list of what they think others might want so they can expand their focus beyond themselves. Discuss intangible ways to make people happy and stress the importance of spending time with and doing favors for family members and good friends. Create coupons for visiting someone once a month, a hug a day or performing a necessary chore for someone.
5) Create a non-commercial environment. Curtail the use of screen machines that expose kids to commercials and advertisements. When you limit TV viewing where children are consistently and deliberately enticed by advertisers, especially during the holiday season, you will minimize the constant request for the newest item available and protect your pocketbook at the same time.
It's important to realize that all young children need help outgrowing their self-centered self to see the world beyond them. The formation of gratitude and altruism is an ongoing process that will take place as your child develops from year to year. Starting early is key, especially in today's world when consumerism is so abundant and instant gratification is almost considered to be an expected way of life. Consistently teaching your child to lead a grateful life will definitely maximize his or her caring quota and encourage social thinking - what better gift can a parent give a child?