Teaching Kids Gratitude
Children imitate their parents, so if parents model gratitude and kindness, our children will learn to develop and mirror an attitude of gratitude.“Show/Hide
Mariel Gutierrez: Welcome to Faith and Family! We’re a Christian family community that aims to promote Christian values. I’m Mariel Gutierrez. I’m a tired mom. I have two kids, a husband, a dog, so I’m juggling a lot of responsibilities and you know it’s the common mom conundrum that the family starts off with: “Hey mom, where’s this? Mom, what’s for dinner? Mom, can you…? Dot, dot, dot, fill in the blanks, everything!”
It can get really exhausting. And most days no one really says, “thanks Mom!” or “good job, mom!” You know, and it’s easy for mom’s, maybe, moms like me, to feel underappreciated. Have you ever really felt like that, moms out there? Or could it be that we’re feeling quote unquote “underappreciated”? Maybe because we aren’t teaching our kids how to be grateful? After all, children are born without feelings of gratitude, it’s not something they know right away, right? It’s something they have to learn.
So let’s ask our moms who are with us today. Today, we have mommy Bernie, mommy Jewell, and mommy Emirick. Hey moms!
Mariel: How’s your day today?
Bernie: For me, normally Mondays are the days that I go into work, but for the rest of the day’s, Tuesday through Friday I work at home, and I also take care of my three-year-old. So it’s logging in, the boy wakes up, go to the computer, the boy wants breakfast, go back to the computer, and then the boy watches a little bit of Daniel Tiger, and I feel like I’m juggling work, at the same time I have a curriculum for my son. I have my good days, and I have my bad days, because as perfect as it may sound, it doesn’t always streamline like that.
Emirick: I am a teacher, and so it’s kind of nice because right now I’m on summer vacation. But, it’s summer vacation, I should be on vacation! I should be reading a book, and enjoying myself, taking frequent trips to the beach, but okay. So, let me paint the picture. My boys, I have 3 boys. They are 9, 12 and 15. The 9 and the 12 year old are on a swim team. Practice is at 7 o’clock in the morning. So, I have to wake up earlier than them, because they don’t wake up on their own. So, I get up at around 6, so that I could have a moment to myself, like you were describing, which is awesome! And then at around 6:30 I’m starting to wake them up. And I’ve got to do it a few times. I’ve got to make my rounds. I first start off by singing! So, I’m singing the “Wake Up” song, and
Mariel: Wait wait wait, no, we want to hear! We want to hear!
Bernie: Yeah I want to know
Emirick: Ok, it goes: “Wake up! Waaake up! It’s time to wake up!” And I just…
Emirick: I just kind of make it up whatever, clapping my hands, and they pull the covers over their heads. After maybe 15 minutes of doing that they reluctantly get up, put their swim clothes on, and I leave my fifteen-year-old in bed and we head off to the pool. So, they’re doing their warm-up and I’m sitting, you know, trying to memorize my processional for thanksgiving as I’m sitting there. And I’m planning, you know, some of the stuff getting ready for the following school year, so I’m doing my own little thing while I’m at swim practice, and I call my older son, and I call him, and I text him, and I call him until he wakes up, and tell him, okay you guys, you’ve got to go for a morning jog or something. You’ve got to read a book, you know, all this stuff. And after all that’s done, we’ve got to come home, I have to make breakfast.
Emirick: Then before you know it, it’s lunch. And I have to take Andrew to piano, and then they’ve got to memorize their processional, too! Then I’m quizzing them with their processional as well, and this is just Monday, ladies! It’s a pretty crazy ride on my shoulders.
Jewell: I almost feel guilty! I’m painting my day, listening to you guys because I’m a firm believer of: it takes a whole village to raise your children! So, I moved my parents back to live with me when I started having my children, so my day… I don’t know why I’m so tired! I actually have a lot of help at home!
But I’m like, why do I sound so tired then??!
Everyone: It’s tiring! You’re still a mom! Yeah!
Emirick: And they’re little, so they’re crawling all over you!
Mariel: Yeah, but you know, but even with all of that said, there are still moments… maybe unappreciated is not the word? You know what I mean? But like, there are some moments that we do things, and maybe our family… well maybe it is underappreciated? Do we ever feel, or are there moments where we feel underappreciated? Or maybe underappreciated is just not the word. What do you guys think? Are there efforts that go unnoticed? What is it?
Emirick: I feel like uh… they take me for granted?
Emirick: Maybe the word is, I’m not looking for their appreciation, but I’m looking for them to pitch in, you know? Without being told. If I tell them, if I tell them
I often say to my kids, you know, there are six people in this family, and I’m like, in a team, where there are six people, let’s pretend… basketball. There are five people on the team. If only one person was running up and down the court, trying to make all the baskets and all the other four people were just like, that’s cool, I’m going to watch you, you’re doing a great job, you’re doing a great job… you know?!
Mariel: If they even say you’re doing a great job, right?
Emirick: Yeah! You know, today, we had a Costco trip. And I parked the car, we’re home, and they’re so eager to get in the door, so they can play their video games, and get on Skype and talk to their friends. And I’m like, “Boys! Should I carry all of this by myself??” And they’re like, “Oh! Oh, oh, yeah mom, do you need help? Do you need help?”
Everyone: Do you need heeelp? Do you need help?!
Emirick: I’m like, “I don’t know? This watermelon is kind of like… heavy! The one you picked out, David.” You know?!
Mariel: Oh man. You know what’s funny? Is my kids, what they’ll do, so we’ll open the trunk, and I’ll pick up the snacks that they want from the bags, and they’ll walk away!?
Mariel: They’re like, “We’re helping!” I’m like oh, no, no, no, no. You know, I think that you guys are right though, it’s not necessarily underappreciated. Like, for me, I’ve said it before, I feel like sometimes it is like a little bit of disregard. I feel Jewell: I feel that it’s not that it’s underappreciated, it’s… it’s more of they don’t know, you know? Since they were born, as moms, I guess it’s up to us.
Bernie: Mommy does everything
Jewell: Yes, mom does everything
Bernie: You know, I guess it’s up to us to kind of, to…
Jewell: … to teach them!
Bernie: To teach them.
Mariel: It’s sooo funny, because it’s… our fault.
Mariel: This is not how this was supposed to go!
I feel guilty, again.
Jewell: That’s the reason why it’s a conscious effort to actually teach our children to be a certain way
Mariel: You know what, yeah. Ok, so on that point, you just … you hit the nail nail on the head. So could it be that we’re feeling underappreciated or all these other feelings that we just discussed? Because maybe we aren’t teaching our kids how to be kind, encouraging and grateful?
According to an article published on ksl.com, there are 8 compliments that kids are dying to hear. Okay so number one:
- I believe in you!
- That choice makes me proud
- I appreciate your ability to… blank
- I’m thankful that you’re in my family
- I can trust you to be honest with me
- You made a good choice
- I know you did your best, and last but not least
- I love you
Duh, right? So ok, we’re all tired, but how many of those things can we honestly say that we tell our kids?
Jewell: You know what? I’m feeling proud of myself right now! Because I’m like, wow! I do those things!
Bernie: Ohhh! Girl! Ok! Because I’m over here like… ?
Emirick: Me too! I’m like… I’ve got to say these more.
Jewell: What you just said right now, Mar, like for example, another Christian mom has taught me that the older ones, you have to make them responsible for the younger ones. And so like with Hayden [her eldest son] or with Jasmine [her daughter, and eldest child], I always tell them, like, you know, I am so proud of how well you take care of your brother. You know, your brother, Hudson [her youngest son]. And ate [older sister, referring to Jasmine], you always protect them. When really on the side, I’m thinking in my head like man, you’re always so mean to them!
Mariel: Yeah, but you want to highlight the good that they just did.
Jewell: Yes, exactly! You know?!
Mariel: Reverse psychology. Right.
Jewell: And so I… I hope, hopefully he doesn’t hear this podcast! And so, what I like to tell like, Jasmine [is] are you proud of how you made that choice? Because I feel like it’s not just them making us proud or others proud, that they also should be proud…
Bernie: … proud of themselves? Yeah?
Jewell: Not necessarily having pride in themselves. That they, that they are proud that they are making good decisions. You know what I mean? For themselves, not just for everybody and so that’s why I think, like I said earlier, it’s a conscious effort to actively say these things to our kids even though really in your head it’s like… why in the world did you just hit your brother? You know, why in the world did you just kick your sister? So I’m hoping that over the years, as they grow up, that those things, those things they learn to, to implement in their lives. What about you guys?
Emirick: Yeah. You know one of the books that I read… I read a book called Mindset. And actually as you were going through the list of things that you should be saying to your children, it kind of meshed with what I learned in the book on how we need to praise our children. Not for their natural endowments, but for the efforts that they make. For the hard work that they do. For things they have control over, because we want them to, you know, through when we praise him that way, then it continues to reaffirm the fact that they, they… when they work hard, you know, that they’re in control of, of… of their, of their accomplishments, their successes, through their own efforts, and through their hard work.
Bernie: That’s what I also do for my 3-year-old. Because you know, he’s still at the, you know, learning stages, so for him, when he cleans up his toys, or when… you know, he’s… he does help with the groceries, I do, like what Jewell was saying, like, you know what Daddy? You know what JoJo do today? He cleaned up his toys by himself, and then you know he helped, he helped mommy do this and that. And when he hears that I see his reaction! And then he goes and tells his dad: I put away my books, and I put it this way, and that way. So, it’s just like, sometimes, it goes back to what Jewell was saying, it’s just like that encouragement, and it’s up to us to… to start honing [in] that direction. So… but I’m taking all these notes! Emirick! Girl, I am searching you on Facebook!
Emirick: Just listening to you guys… it was really reminding me that I need to be a model for showing appreciation.
Mariel: You already are, girl! You’re a model to us!
Bernie: Right?! That’s what I was going to say! I’m like, I feel like I need to do 20 push ups after this!
Mariel: All right, so with all that said, in that sense of appreciation, what do we hope for them to learn about gratitude in terms of their spirituality?
Jewell: For me, as what I… what I find really useful or effective, is when you teach your child on the spot. When they do something, like… for example, if Hudson, or Hayden, or Jasmine, they did something well, I always tell them you know what? See how God has blessed you? See how God has healed you or your boo boo right away!
Jewell: You know what? Why don’t you pray, and thank God for that? So, I’m like on the spot, like, we’ll pray right away. You know what I mean? Rather than waiting till the evening or something, because they see the results of their skin healing, or whatever it is, and right away they connected with: it’s because God God allowed this to happen. And so, for me it’s important to let them recognize that right away, so… It doesn’t have to be big humongous things, but it’s everyday little things that we do in life? That happens to us, that we have to always be grateful for. And so I think it’s important to immediately recognize them, thank God with a prayer, on the spot. You know what I mean? And so in addition to that even the evenings.
Emirick: Yeah. I also try to make it a habit that when, when you know, positive things happen in their life, that, you know, they notice that it’s God’s blessings, you know? Like,
But a think that I always talk to my kids about is appreciation versus entitlement. The feeling of gratitude versus feeling entitled, and how they are on two opposite sides of the spectrum. And I remind them to always stay humble. You know? You’re not owed anything. I forbid them to say, “I deserved it”. I remind them that God doesn’t owe us anything, you know? It’s, it’s our… it’s us who owe God, you know, everything that we have. So, I’m trying to think, instead of saying like, I deserved something, or… you know, I say, you know, you were blessed with something. You know? You were giving a gift! You know? And, and, and be appreciative [of] that gift! So we
In all the matter in the whole entire universe that God created, He created all the planets, He created all the stars, He created all these different things! He created earth, and look at all of the teeny tiny pieces of matter that we are? We’re so tiny in comparison to the whole universe, but God still gives us gifts. You know? And I’m like, so… cherish it. Doesn’t matter what it is, you know? It doesn’t matter how big the gift, or how little the gift, or whatever. We aren’t owed anything, you know? So, appreciate everything you have! You know? So, those are the things we talk about. Obviously, you know, talking about it is one thing, you know, but the action of appreciation is another thing! So, it’s a work-in-progress! You know, I don’t have the formula down, but I know that discussing it at least? You know, making them recognize, and not feel like I’m owed everything. 15:27
Emirick: And I’m hoping that, you know, it sinks in, but a lot of… I’ve learned a lot from you guys today, just in modeling appreciation. Because I don’t think I model it enough! I think maybe I might be a little bit more like: Boys! You need to like… work! Instead of being like: Oh, thank you son for making your bed this morning. Even though they didn’t, and I look at the bed like, you know.
Mariel: It’s the effort!
Emirick: Yeah. I need to stay a little bit more positive, because it’s really, really easy to get into that negative zone! You know??
Emirick: And to make a conscious effort, and not go there all the time, but be a little bit more clever in your parenting, you know?
Jewell: Well, speaking during dinner, I try to… and another mom has taught me to do this just simple thing. By asking: What are, what are you thankful for? Like, what today, what from today are you thankful for? You know? I mean my kids are still young, and so it’s… I love this stuff that they come up with! You know what I mean? But one thing I do love, they always, always… three things they always say: I’m thankful for God, they always say it. I’m thankful for my family, and I’m thankful for the Church! All the time! You know, and then, and I love how they say… I say, give me three things, and they’re like: Can I have 10 things? You know? And so, it’s focusing on the… your right, it’s having that discussion. It’s so cute to have. Communication is key in and it helps us to understand, okay are they getting it? And are they understanding the importance of being thankful for the things that they have? Especially for our young ones, you know? I’m sure it’s going to change as they get older, but hopefully it stays in them as they get older.
Emirick: I think it does! Especially, I mean if my boys… because, you know, I’ve tried to do it since they were young. Especially in regards to God, you know? Like, be appreciative for God’s blessings in your life. And, they may not, like, always be the best at showing appreciation towards me? But they are pretty good about noticing God’s blessings, and thanking God for the blessings, you know? Because they’ll even tell me, like, sometimes when they come home from school, you know, oh my gosh this happened! And I prayed about it, and, and God gave it to me! You know?! And then I’m like, well, did you say thank you? And they’re like, yes! I’m like, ok good. You know?
Bernie: That’s good.
Emirick: So, it does… I think it does carry over, you know, into as they get older.
Jewell: I love how you said that, Emirick! And I think that’s the reason why the whole under-appreciation is not necessarily felt? Because ultimately we want to model by them appreciating everything back to God.
Jewell: You know what I mean? Not necessarily towards us. Not necessarily… And I think that’s what we’ve, in the Church, what we learn is that the appreciation always goes back to God, and not necessarily to anybody. You know, it’s back to God. And how do we always give the credit back to God? And so, I think you really hit it on the point, Emirick, by saying that. That… that’s what actually brings it home for us, is that, when we rec.. when we see that our kids realize that the appreciation is back to God! You know what I mean? And that’s what gives us that gratitude of like, wow, you know, it really is sinking in them.
Mariel: Hmm, what about you Bernie? Is it too early to teach it right now?
Bernie: Um? You know, a little. Not, not… it’s never too early?
But I think that, you know, if you lead by… for me, right now it’s just by example, not just by words. And one of the things that, I don’t know, I wouldn’t say it’s to the extreme, but a few weeks ago, my son and I got into a car accident. And my son was with me, and I’ve been into a car accident before, but this is the first time that it was with my son, so that shook me up a lot. Because you know when you get into a car accident, and it’s just you, you’re jue like I’m cool, whatever, but this time you got, you got your kid in the back. And as soon as we got home, you know, I’m still waiting for my husband to come home. As soon as I got home, I said, son, you know… Oh-kay, don’t cry [clears throat] I said, son, we are going to pray. And he was just like, why? Because the acc-i-dent? Yes. So I had him kneel. And this was… I had him kneel with me. I didn’t even take my shoes off, I just dropped my purse, and that’s the first thing we did, was kneel. And we said a prayer. And then after we said the prayer I explained to my son why we prayed, you know? Because we’re thanking Him [God], that we were okay, and He protected us and we… we really didn’t get hurt. And you know… you know, my husband is like, oh, you know is the
Are we praying for the car, too? I said, oh you know, the car is just something that, you know, it’s just a car, but I’m praying that you and I are ok.
So, the next worship service, you know, anybody, you know, if anybody has talked to my son, he talks a lot. He’ll tell you a story, he’ll go a mile a minute. And so he goes to Church, and you know, I had posted a picture on Facebook about the car accident, so brethren from Church were asking if we were okay. And my son was like, we got into a car accident, and then the car went bam! But then we went home, and we thanked God that we were ok, so… it’s ok!
Bernie: So, to know that even at those times… I mean, we remind them about God through our, you know, when we accomplish things. You know, when the little boo boo’s happen, and even, you know, things that are a little bit more serious, you know, like something like that. Even if it’s the worst, no matter what you do, if you’re okay, you always remember to thank God, because we’re okay.
Mariel: Alright so, based on this podcast today, we’ve learned that appreciation though sometimes not feeelt! You know, but it can be taught, right? Gratitude can be taught. Yes.
Everyone: Yes. Absolutely!
Mariel: You moms out there, even though your kids or your spouse may forget to say it and show it? Know that we feel you! We’re out here. We know what you’re going through, and we appreciate you! And you know what maybe if we incorporated the language, you know, those compliments that our kids are dying to hear, into our daily routines? You know, we teach gratitude that our families will pick up on our, and appreciate… you know, learn appreciation, and be able to mirror that virtue. Right?
Mariel: Not necessarily because we need the praise, or the thank you, or the recognition for that two-day-old spaghetti that we packed into their lunch boxes?
Mariel: It’s all good, right?? Two days is fine, right?
Bernie: If it was in the fridge!
Mariel: Hmmm! No, it was in the fridge, definitely. Or the oven? I can’t remember.
Emirick: It’s better! Two days later.
Mariel: See? We don’t need the thank you’s, but you know, appreciation, t’s a virtue that needs to be honed and practiced. So, I want to thank you ladies! Jewell, Bernie, Emirick… thanks for hanging out with us today on Faith and Family.
Everyone: Thank you! Thank you for having us.
Mariel: So, aside from finding us on incmedia.org you can catch these podcasts on iTunes and Google Play. We will catch you next time here on Faith and Family.