Raising a Thankful Child

My aunt was a victim of domestic abuse and sought refuge in a women's shelter when she finally made the decision to leave her husband. She took her two children and they left. There was no time to pack bags or gather clothes and personal belongings. Oftentimes, women leaving bad relationships take nothing more than the clothes on their backs. When my mom went to visit her, she was told they were in desperate need of donations; clothes for the women who left, toys for the kids, anything to give hope and make the situation more comfortable for these families. 

That was the first year my brother and I donated our unused toys to the women's shelter. That lesson has stuck with me all these years and it is something I have adopted with my son. In order to make room for new toys, he must donate his unused toys every year. Finding a cause that is near and dear to your heart makes giving even more impactful. 

November is the start of the holiday season and a popular topic is always thankfulness. I hear my son getting very "wanty" around this time of year and his Christmas list seems to go on endlessly. The final straw came when we were grocery shopping and he asked to get a toy at the checkout. I said no and he threw a fit, crying that he hadn't gotten a new toy all week. All week? Really? He has a room full of toys, a closet full of clothes, shoes on his feet, and never has to worry about where his next meal will come from. He was well overdue for a lesson in thankfulness. 

5 Tips for Raising a Thankful Child this holiday season. 

1. Donate toys to a worthy cause - Let your kiddo know how fortunate they are to have so many toys to play with. Many kids aren't this lucky. In order to make way for new presents, at least "x" toys must be donated to those in need. Find a cause that is meaningful to you. My mom donated some lightly worn clothes to the women's shelter when my brother and I donated our toys. Make it a family affair to show that it's important for everyone to practice giving.

2. The Salvation Army Christmas Angel Tree - This was also a tradition of ours growing up, and is one that my son and I do every year. The Salvation Army sets up Angel Trees in shopping centers with the names/ages/lists of those in need. We like to pick out a child who is the same age as my son and who has the same interests (this makes shopping easier). I make it a point to tell my son every year that he is sacrificing one of his presents so that another little boy gets to have one. Bonus points if you start planning now. Allow your child to earn money through household chores to buy an Angel Tree gift themselves. 

3. Help prepare and cook the Thanksgiving meal - While most food kitchens and banquet halls have a minimum age limit on volunteer opportunities, that doesn't mean you can't still teach your child how blessed they are to have food on the table. Kiddos like to help out. My son is super competitive so everything we do is gamified. I put a few items on his own list and we race to see who can get them the quickest. I am also an admitted horrible cook, so our Thanksgiving meal is nothing like you see on TV (I would be fine eating pizza), but the message is still the same. Be thankful you have food in your belly. 

4. Experience over 'things' - I want my son to realize the value of family and to be thankful that he is being raised in a loving (though sometimes hectic) household. For Christmas this year we are spending less on gifts and more on experiences. We plan to do fun activities on Christmas Eve and Christmas to enjoy spending time together as a family, rather than just opening presents. Be intentional about spending quality time together. Be thankful for your family and in turn, they will be thankful for you. 

5. Say your bedtime prayers - Before bed each night (ok most nights) we recap the day we had and pray for the day to come. Most commonly we pray for the simple things that we all too often take fore granted (our health, the roof over our heads, jobs to pay the bills, etc.). My son is a bit of a lazy prayer (he likes to just say "ditto" to whatever I say) so we are working on picking one thing to be thankful about and one thing to pray about for the upcoming day. 

Rapper T.I. said it best when he reminded us all to "stop looking at what you ain't got and start being thankful for what you do got." What are some of the ways you teach your child(ren) thankfulness this holiday season?