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Raising Grateful Kids

By November 22, 2011No Comments

baby dressed as a turkeyIt’s almost Thanksgiving!

The calendar obligates us to be thankful on Thursday! Thankful for an epic mess in the kitchen, Uncle Eddie-types at our table, eating more food at one meal than anyone should consume in two days!

I’m totally kidding, a little bit, but seriously–sometimes I think it’s easier to be more thankful on a different day than Thanksgiving. But, it can be endearing; Grandma’s cornbread stuffing (with a LOT of sage!), Auntie’s home made pecan pies, the inevitable jello mold, great grandma–so happy to be all dressed up and surrounded by her umpteen grandchildren, new babies in the family, the construction-paper turkey napkin ring holders on the table. There’s no denying that it is a memory-making day, no matter what happens.

Every year, I vow to keep my priorities straight and make intentional actions to be grateful and to continue with that heart into the Christmas hustle and bustle that is around the corner. I never pull it off just-right, but I am convinced that getting back up on the horse every year is half the battle! This year, I made a Thankful Tree. I saw it on another blog and loved the idea of making a little table-top tree from branches and gravel in a pot with paper leavesĀ  to write “I’m thankful for…” by everyone in the family each day so that you can read each one on Thanksgiving. Here’s where I report the tear-jerking stories of my family flocking to the tree to fill it with leaves of their expressed sentiments of heart-felt gratitude….only they did not flock. No flocking, only mocking! Turkeys, they are!

While that project didn’t quite have the breadth and depth I had hoped for, I will keep my little turkeys around a little longer considering we have gained ground in other areas of expressing thanks. Here are a few ideas for the season, but can also be incorporated throughout the year.

  • Cookies: This is a great one for families with little ones. Have a baking day and take cookies to the fire station! Have your little ones draw a picture and help them write “THANK YOU” on it. It may not seem like it makes a big difference, but you’re teaching your child that when we take the time to give and serve it makes others feel appreciated and it makes us feel good, too! And, hello? The fire station? What a cool trip to make! Win-win!
  • Serve: If your kids are older, find a shelter or mission to serve or help prepare the Thanksgiving meal. It’s less work than you think and it makes for great follow-up conversations.
  • Give: Participate in an Angel Tree program (Angel Tree Christmas works by connecting parents in prison with their children through the delivery of Christmas gifts. ) or something similar. Let your kids help you shop for the item or items. It’s a great exercise for our little ones to go to Target and buy a gift for someone else and not go home with anything for themselves–you know what I’m talking about!
  • Thank you notes: I’m a big believer in the discipline of writing thank you notes. It’s a lost art to mail a hand-written note, but I’m campaigning to keep it alive! Birthday presents, Christmas money, guest coming to your recital–thank you goes a long way!

One year, my sister and brother-in-law gave my then three year old son his gift: an envelope saying that they had bought a soccer ball for a child in Africa, in his name. His reaction was honest and memorable, “BUT I WANT THAT SOCCER BALL!” Bahahaha, we laughed and still look back and laugh. Generosity and gratefulness is not always in our nature, but we can choose it, practice it and nurture it in ourselves and in our children.

This post brought to you by Jenny Leggett, who is thankful for turkeys; on and around my table.