Scroll To Top

Op-ed: Teach Your Children to Be Grateful

Op-ed: Teach Your Children to Be Grateful


"Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow."- Melody Beattie

This past October, Ray and the kids and I were doing some shopping in Venice, Italy just yards away from St. Mark's Square in a shop filled with Murano glass. It was our second time there in the past two years, and the owner had already said in English with his Italian accent, "I remember you! How those lovely babies have grown!"

After we bought our Murano angels and Santa Claus to add to our Murano Christmas collection, the owner called Ammon over to choose a "gift." She chose a beautiful, red Murano heart necklace, grinned her wide grin and said, "Thank you!"

The owner smiled back, placed his hands lightly on either side of those cheeks and said, "Bella, bella! And for the boy, how you say... a marble." Then the owner handed Carter a Murano glass marble with a "floating" goldfish. Carter's eyes lit up, and in his most sweet and gracious 3-year-old voice said, "Thank you sir!"

This time the owner's words came with laughter and that famous song-like, Italian inflection, "What a good boy, eh?"

I couldn't help but smile and beam with pride at my gracious children. Being thankful and grateful can be so simple and takes very little effort. Innocent children are masters in showing true gratefulness. But were their words of graciousness a learned response? Yes. Were they truly happy and thankful in what they received? Yes.

At this time of the year, we here in the United States have our wonderful Thanksgiving holiday. No matter what religion, race, or political persuasion we may be, it's our time to "give thanks" for whatever matters to us. If you all haven't noticed, I am thankful and grateful to be a father to Carter and Ammon. From the time Ray and I knew Ammon and Carter existed, we knew we would inculcate an attitude of gratefulness into their beings.

In the magazine Montessori Life, there is an article called "Teaching Gratitude: Tools for inner peace and happiness." It shares a 204 study on the positive effects of practicing gratitude: increased energy, alertness, enthusiasm, passion, determination, and optimism. What parent or parent figure doesn't want that for their children?

During this Thanksgiving, we should use the opportunity to create experiences for our children that cultivate an awareness of abundance, show the wonderment and appreciation for simple pleasures, and create understanding in how others contribute to a sense of well being and happiness. After reading the magazine article, I decided to have a gratitude lesson with Ammon and Carter.

I saved their "hand-print turkeys" (the thumb is the turkey's head, and the four fingers are turkey feathers) from last November, and I was glad we had not written in the four fingers.

I asked Carter and Ammon to help me write some things in the fingers. As the magazine suggested, to help recognize an abundance of things, they told me to write "toys and food" in the first finger.

The next finger represented simple things, and we wrote "our Walnut tree and hawk" (both of which we see outside frequently).

The third finger had the names of family members they wanted to show gratitude. And so they chose to place their grandmothers, "Nana and Mamaw," in that finger.

The last finger to an older, more mature child might have represented "something to be thankful for," which should take a little more thought than the "something simple" second finger, but to Carter and Ammon it was space for their "blanket and bear."

We three were so proud of the "Gratitude Gobblers," and we taped the turkeys up on the playroom door for everyone to see.

Everyone could really use some learning about Thanksgiving and gratitude. The cool thing would be to create a turkey yourself. Ah, come on, go ahead. Release your inner-child, and actually "place in writing" or in this case "place in a Thanksgiving turkey" the things and people you are grateful for.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

HAVEN CAYLOR is a Doctor of Education who has taught for more than 20 years. He and his husband, Ray, live in Tennessee with their son, Carter, and daughter, Ammon.

Advocate Magazine - KehlaniAdvocate Channel Promotion

From our Sponsors

Most Popular

Latest Stories