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Kids & Money: Teaching Gratitude

One of the most important financial — and life — lessons your children can learn is that of gratitude. Gratitude can make life sweeter, and it can also inspire contentment with life. When your children are content with what they have, and grateful for it, there is less of a “need” to spend money on more stuff.

Unfortunately, we are essentially selfish creatures. We have to learn gratitude. Chances are, you learned gratitude at some point, and your children have to learn it as well. You can improve your child’s ability to make better financial decisions, and live more fulfilling lives, if you encourage gratitude, and help them learn to be thankful:

Say “No”

When children aren’t thankful for what they have, they tend to ask for more stuff. Indeed, the more you give children, the less appreciative they might become. After all, if they always get what they want, it’s hard to be thankful for things. Instead, stuff becomes an entitlement. My son regularly asks if we can eat out. I tell him “no” regularly. But when I do say “yes” he appreciates our outing so much more, and often remembers to thank me.

Give Kids Chores to Do

How can your child appreciate all you do for him or her if there is no concept of the effort it takes? When your children do age-appropriate chores, it can help them understand that keeping the home nice takes effort. They will appreciate your efforts to cook dinner for them more if they have a gained a knowledge of the effort involved in such chores [3] because they are used to gathering up the trash, or unloading the dishwasher.

Let Your Kids Give to Others

Encourage your children to give to the less fortunate [4], and make sure you talk about your own situation. As I went through some of our unneeded household goods, my son asked what I was doing. “We’re so lucky and blessed to have all of these things,” I said. “But we don’t need them all. We can give them to someone who might not have these things.” He was excited to go through his toys and look for some items to give as well, knowing that perhaps other children didn’t have as many toys.

But, it doesn’t have to involve donating items to the local thrift store. You can also do nice things for others, such as making soup to take to a sick friend. Have your child help you add ingredients. Talk about how great it is to give to others, and how grateful you are for your own health, and for the good friend that you will be visiting.

Write Thank-You Notes

Have your children write thank-you notes when they receive gifts. My son is old enough now that he can compose his own notes. We sit down and think about the gifts he received, and who they came from. Then, he composes a note discussing the gift, how much he likes it, and expressing gratitude.

Also, encourage your child to thank people for favors and gifts immediately. Of course, you have to do it yourself if you want your child to catch on. Setting an example of gratitude is essential. This is why I write thank-you notes for my own gifts when my son is around, and I am sure to say “please” and “thank you” at the dinner table, as well as when I ask my son to do something for me. When expressions of thankfulness and gratitude are part of your daily interactions, it teaches a valuable lesson.

How do you teach your children gratitude?

(Photo: woodleywonderworks [5])