“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” Ecclesiastes 3:1.
As I was distributing snacks to some young toddlers learning to verbalize, my heart melted when one of the young fellows, without any prompting, gave me a big “Thank you!” His little eyes even expressed gratitude. How did one so young already learn this?
2020 has been a challenging year for all families. During this week before Thanksgiving, we can pause and truly be grateful for the many blessings God has provided for us through the kind acts of other people, through our low times in the valleys as well as the mountaintops of hope.
During this holiday season, decorating our homes and lives with heartfelt expressions of gratitude for each other and for each day is a life lesson in gratitude for young children to observe and take to heart.
As a classroom teacher of young children for many years, I love to hear what they are thankful for. Having an attitude of gratitude brings happiness and joy to the hearts of young children and reduces physical problems and stress. Thankfulness and gratitude contribute to secure feelings for a young child.
How can we as families teach young children about gratitude?
Be an example and model of expressing gratitude. I love to see young children break out in a great big smile after opening a lunchbox and seeing a “thank you” note or a drawn picture from Mom or Dad expressing gratitude of some kind act that their child has done at home like cleaning their rooms, helping their parents by doing age-appropriate kitchen tasks or other house chores. Showing public gratitude even for little acts of kindness, gifts, etc., in front of your young children teaches them to model your actions. Extending thanks, for example, for someone opening a door for you and your family, someone helping to carry groceries or someone serving a family food at a local restaurant, are ways your children observe and imitate your models of gratitude. These actions of gratitude show that blessings are all around. Thankfulness is a wonderful attitude to learn.
Talk with your child. I have mentioned in earlier Classroom Observer articles that T-I-M-E spent with your child spells LOVE. I learned very early in my teaching career that young children are close observers of parents and teachers. One of my young students was trying to share with me what her family had done over the weekend. I was being distracted by looking at my watch, lesson plans, etc. As I sat at my desk, she gently leaned in eye-to-eye and asked me politely to listen to her. Reality truly hit me. Undistracted listening is a courteous gift of love to our young children. Modeling good listening skills for our children develops empathy. This says and shows our young children that they are loved and truly cared for. During this time spent with your child you can talk about the best parts of their day; discuss how they truly like their friends and why; what games they like to play or toys they like to play with. These are just examples of things to discuss with your young children. Time spent with children and empathy contribute to an attitude of gratitude.
Celebrate your child’s individual self. I love what God teaches us in Psalms 139:14: “I will praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are your works, And that my soul knows very well.” Children love to look at themselves in the mirror. I love as a teacher using a mirror with infants and toddlers as they learn they are so special to God, their families, their teachers and their friends. Point out your young child’s individual strengths, talents and gifts to use to help the family or even in the classroom. I will be honest; I always have trouble putting puzzles back together when children and I are cleaning up. Young children with the gift of logic can quickly put the puzzle back together easily. Too, those children who are artistic can add a seasonal flair to home or classroom decorations. I absolutely enjoy every minute of singing with infants and older preschoolers.
Include young children in helping and encouraging others. We don’t have to look very far to give and share with a person in need. When young children are able to share their strengths and talents thoughtfully with others, this truly creates and encourages grateful children.
Classroom Observer is so grateful to be able to share with the readers my heart and experiences in teaching young children. With this week’s Opelika Observer I am so grateful to Michelle Key and the Opelika Observer for extending to me the wonderful opportunity to write and share my heart and love for children and families with the community the past two years. Yes, today is my two-year anniversary of writing for the wonderful Opelika Observer. I want to thank my readers for sharing ideas with me as well as encouraging me after you have read Classroom Observer articles.
Beth Pinyerd, Classroom Observer