Cultivating Gratitude In Children

November 30, 2012

Welcome to the November 2012 Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival: Gratitude and Traditions

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival hosted by Authentic Parenting and Living Peacefully with Children. This month our participants have written about gratitude and traditions by sharing what they are grateful for, how they share gratitude with their children, or about traditions they have with their families. The Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival will be taking a break in December, but we hope you will join us for the great line up of themes we have for 2013!


The holiday season always has me reflecting on the blessings in my life. Now that I have been deeply entrenched in this mothering gig for 3 years, I have been giving a lot of thought to gratitude and how I want to instill that in Brody. This isn’t as easy as it sounds. Gratitude is so much more than “manners.” It is so much deeper than saying thank you or even being thankful for something.

I was in the soap studio churning out holiday orders last week when I had an “aha moment.” It occurred to me that there is a link between giving and cultivating gratitude. When you are constantly on the receiving end, gratitude gets a little lost in translation. Children by nature are constantly on the receiving end so how can you help them appreciate and be grateful for the people, places, and things in their lives.

I started to come up with some ideas on how I could show Brody what true gratitude looks like so that he can better understand it. As most parents know, modeling something is always much more effective than explaining something. This is so true for a complex and somewhat abstract idea like gratitude.

Brody is really involved in my Bar-For-Bar program. Not only does he help me make soaps (heh – his version of making soaps looks a lot different than mine) but I always include him when I am packaging up soaps for donation. He has also come with me to our local woman’s shelters. So he already has the seeds planted for what giving looks like. However, I am not sure that he really understands the whole gratitude aspect. I mean, he isn’t in the shower with these women watching their faces light up when they are using my soaps!

Cutting Soap for Donations

I thought that this holiday season would be a perfect time to get him involved with cultivating his own gratitude. December 1st marks the first day of Advent. This year we have decided to put a giving back spin on the traditional Advent Calendar. First our family of three sat down together and thought up 25 actions that we could do for others (others meaning humankind, the Earth and animals). I thought at first my husband and I would have to come up with all of the ideas, so not true. Brody jumped right in. He was so excited to come up with his own ideas of giving back. Two of his favorite ideas were bringing in our neighbors trash cans and making pinecone bird feeders for our bird friends that happen upon our favorite walk. Brody has been so excited for Advent to start so he can begin with our giving back days. I truly believe that teaching gratitude is the biggest gift that I could ever give my son.

Filling the Advent Calendar with Giving Back Projects

I also thought that I would start incorporating a three-day gratitude challenge every month for the next year. I am not sure how this will play out in its entirety but here is my idea.

Once per month, for three days, we will pick an aspect of our lives to downsize in a big way. Perhaps this will be putting away 90% of Brody’s toys. Maybe it will be not turning on electricity for a day. It might even be not using our car. Basically, I want to take one aspect of our lives that we kind of take for granted and get rid of it so we can all appreciate it more.

I think that this will have a bigger impact on Brody than doing things like donating old clothes or volunteering somewhere. When he has to live without some of the things or without doing some of things we typically do, I think he will better understand just how blessed he is. And perhaps then, the idea of gratitude will begin to make more sense.

What do you all think? Am I nuts to try this? Does it sound like an awesome idea? How do you cultivate gratitude in your children?



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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Laura @ Authentic Parenting November 30, 2012 at 12:13 pm

As I’m writing this, my daughter is screaming in my ear: “I want presents, I want presents”. We just finished crafting an advent calendar and that’s the result… How did we get to this?
We try to live a simple life, we try not to spoil our children, and somewhere along the route, it did happen. Maybe it’s the grandparents who do lavish onto the kids in the holidays? I don’t know.
Anyway, I have decided today that this christmas, we won’t be doing presents, but we’ll go to the orphanage and give presents to them. Hopefully my daughter will see that there is a little madness in screaming for presents, and there are children who have nothing, and who are happy with just a small piece of anything.
So no, I do not think you are crazy


Poppy Soap Co. November 30, 2012 at 4:01 pm

Hi Laura!
How old is your little one? I think partly it is just the age and nature of children. On a daily basis B wants-wants-wants even though we also live simply. I think it is all a part of the human experience. We as parents are here to lay the foundation by example. I love your idea of gifting the orphanage. What we tell B is that you need to give to get. My father said, “No, he should just give and not expect to receive back.” Yes, but he is 3 years old and I think that starting with something concrete instead of abstract may be a better approach. Of course our goal is to give and not expect something back, but it is all about setting appropriate expectations based on his age. Happy Holidays!


Jenn @ Monkey Butt Junction November 30, 2012 at 3:23 pm

I love your idea of an advent calendar with giving in mind. We are doing an advent calendar this year that involves activities and book reading (rather than candy or gifts) but I think next year when my son is a little bit older we’ll incorporate some giving as well. I started doing volunteer work with him from a young age so I too am hoping that this will translate into cultivating gratitude for what we have as he grows older.

I’m very interested in this Bar for Bar program – I’m off to look around the other parts of your site now.


Poppy Soap Co. November 30, 2012 at 3:49 pm

Hi Jenn! This for sure is the first year he really understands the giving back concept. They do as we do, so I am sure that your volunteer work will translate 🙂 Excited to check out your blog! Take care


Amy Willa November 30, 2012 at 5:35 pm

I think you are RIGHT ON in involving Brody in giving and especially in making an Advent Calendar filled with things that you guys as a family can do for others and for the world around you. What a totally appropriate Holiday tradition! I love it!


Mandy @ Living Peacefully with Children November 30, 2012 at 9:41 pm

I love your focus on giving. This is something for which we work with our children. Each year, we look for ways to give to those less fortunate, along with friends and family. We also help the kids make gifts for their siblings, spending quality time with them to do so after helping them truly think what their brothers and sisters might like. Most importantly, we spend tme together.


sustainablemum November 30, 2012 at 10:36 pm

I love your advent calendar idea, so simple but such a good idea for this time of year. I hope you enjoy your days of advent.


Vicky December 1, 2012 at 6:10 pm

What brilliant ideas! My daughter is only 8 months, but I am so stealing your advent calendar idea for when she is old enough to understand! Advent always seems to end up being about 25 days of different-shaped chocolate.


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