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THE OPEN HAVERSACK: Teach gratitude

Rhonda A. Blackman

THE OPEN HAVERSACK: Teach gratitude

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We live in a culture that does not seem to support the concept of gratitude; it teaches the exact opposite. Television commercials promote the idea that we are entitled to have whatever we want, whenever we want it, however we get it.  
They supply us with a steady stream of objects of our desire, so that we are never entirely satisfied with what we already have, but we crave for more. Yet this box has become the babysitter, infiltrating and influencing the minds of children and feeding the cravings of parents.
We need to learn one small word – gratitude. Gratitude does not come naturally in our culture, therefore a conscious effort must be made to teach it.
In today’s “give me, give me” world, parents are faced with the challenge of rearing thankful children. It is important therefore to meet that challenge head on by teaching children how to show their appreciation for what they have and what people has done for them. Children need to understand that when they are given a gift or an advantage, there is a sacrifice made by the giver.
How can children truly learn how to be grateful when some parents give them everything they want, when they want it? When items are given so easily some children show little or no regard for the hardships and selflessness involved in giving these possessions; in fact, some children feel entitled to it. It is clear that parents need to teach children basic humility in order for them to understand that life does not owe them everything they could possibly want or desire.
The onus is therefore on parents to teach and encourage children to say thank you verbally or in writing. A simple Thank-You given often and sincerely introduces children to the graciousness of appreciation.
It is unfortunate that some parents wait only for the occasions highlighted by the calendar to materially allow their children to show some form of gratitude to others in the form of cards, flowers or gifts. These material gestures are important but what is more important is a simple thank you that should be automatically spoken throughout the year. Parents must teach children that they do not need a specific day to celebrate the love, caring and selflessness that people show towards them. Rather they should emphasize that giving thanks is an every day occurrence.
There are some situations which are often taken for granted as not meriting a thank you:
• when a compliment is given.
• if a driver of a vehicle allows a child or adult to cross the street.
• when receiving a meal.
It is not a case of do as I say and not as I do, for it is important that children see and hear their parents expressing acts of gratitude. As children observe the way their parents view and interact with people, things and situations, they will emulate their practice, and learn the valuable lesson in how also to show appreciation.
Remember, parents are the first teacher of children and they do their children an enormous favour when they encourage habits of gratitude. One of the greatest gifts any parent can give his/her child is one of showing gratitude.
• Rhonda A. Blackman is an educator, National Development Scholar and former President of the Early Childhood Association of Barbados Inc.