Other Articles from Santinah Nyagah
7 Ways to Teach our Children Gratitude
December 1993, the year we had a Christmas to remember and a life lesson on giving.
Weeks before my mum had announced we would be visiting an elderly people home, the Nyumba ya Wazee in Kasarani area that is run by the Little sisters of the Poor.
She would be using some of the money she had saved up for Christmas to do shopping for the home. Being in my early teens then, ignorant and self-centred, I felt like the world had come to a thunderous end I would not be get anything for Christmas ! Years later and being a mother of three now I appreciate her gesture and the lesson that came with it.
We are raising children who having all or most of their needs met run the risk of feeling entitled to a gift on their birthdays as well as at Christmas .It then becomes very easy to miss the opportunity to teach about giving and thankfulness.
In an article by Science Daily aptly titled a grateful heart is a healthier heart, gratitude was shown to improve mental and physical health.
Madeline Levine, a mother, psychologist and author of the New York Times best seller The Price of Privilege writes that from the age of two years “kids want to please their parents, your approval is the most important thing in their life”.
This then becomes the perfect time to start imparting values and habits that will last a life -time. With time children can learn to have a gratitude list that is longer than their wish list.
While researching for the article, I talked to a couple of mothers about giving and how they are teaching their children to be givers.
They shared 7 practical ways they were using to achieve this with their children.
1.Modelling: The best way to teach children is to model the behaviour you would like to see. Flora a mother of two has a daughter who attends a Catholic school that during the summer holidays houses homeless single mothers. She has her daughter accompany her as she shops for these mothers and uses this time to explain why they are doing it,now her daughter has a piggy bank which she is using to save up for this cause.
2.Community Service: On Christmas eve, Joy Murunga will be taking her two boys to visit a chidren’s home. Judy a mother of one is having her daughter accompany her to a soup kitchen.
By letting your children share in community activities organized by your church and the neighbourhood you are giving them an opportunity to feel the responsibility of living in a community. To be grateful for what they have and to know they can make a difference no matter how little. You can find more community service activities on mumsvillage.
3.Encourage: Terry a mother of two is always buying pencils, her children would come home from school and tell her of how they had helped a classmate with a pencil, shared a snack, rather than chastise them she has been encouraging them to share and to give.
4.Involvement: Charity a mother of one says that talking to children about the needs they see around and how they can provide a solution in whatever way helps in teaching children that a little help goes a long way.
It shows them that everyone and anyone can make a difference no matter how little.
Allow children to help you pick out thank you cards for any gifts they receive on birthdays or special occasions, to a favourite teacher and let them help you sign and send them out.
5.Handmade gifts: The internet is a treasure trove of information and ideas on do- it -yourself projects you can take up with your children. Have them make a gift for a teacher, a friend or family member, sometimes the best gifts are not the ones that come from a store.
Visit the art and craft section of a bookshop, the Text Book Centre at Sarit has enough material to get your creativity going and make handmade thank you cards or gifts. The TV and Youtube surprisingly are also a great resource for fun art and craft projects with your children.
Pinterest is my favourite go to place for ideas.
6 .Annual family giveaways: Whenever your children have outgrown their toys have them pack them and take to a children’s home before you get new ones. Joy shared how this has worked for her boys and I was inspired to start the same thing with my children.
7.Gratitude jar: Get a jar where family members are encouraged to drop notes throughout the week of what they are grateful for. This can be read at the end of the week maybe over Sunday dinner, it may surprise you what your kids are grateful for.
By nurturing a spirit of generosity and thankfulness, we are preparing them for healthy and loving relationships in the future and when children are taught the importance of empathy they have a better chance of forming satisfying and enduring relationships for life.
With time, children learn that the best gift they can have is a grateful heart.
Read more on Ina’s Blog