BEYOND THE TEXTBOOK
We often underestimate the value of authentic and heartfelt praise. Gratitude is a gift that should be bestowed upon all those deserving, but it is often compromised. Our busy schedules have caused us to expect without acknowledging, and this mindset has passed down to our children, so much so that when children receive a slice of pizza or help with homework, they take it without offering up the slightest bit of thanks
This season, show your child how to implement the power of appreciation. There are many ways to say thank you. Help your child perform the ones below in order to invest in a more appreciative society all year round.
Write a letter
Does your child receive compliments or gifts from loved-ones far away? Have your child bless them back by sending a handwritten letter. Although technology makes it easier to contact those far away, the communication fostered by instant messaging is often stale and shallow. Abbreviated spellings, such as lol (laugh out loud) and omg (oh my god), make it difficult to convey and process words of sincere appreciation. Handwritten letters, however, can get the job done. They tend to be more intimate than e-mail and texting, since the receiver holds something of the sender’s in his or her hands. Also, fancy script or child-like print adds a special and personalized quality to a note that a text message just can’t touch. So have your child send an out-of-town relative or friend a thank you note on their favorite stationery, and spread some seasonal joy in a very intimate way.
Create a family book of praise
Use a holiday break to help your children create a family book to write one or more compliments about each member of your family. Compliments can be as short and sweet as, “Dad, you are the best cook,” or as specific as, “Mom, thank you for teaching me that math trick that helped me master my multiplication facts this quarter.” Your children can print their comments out on colored cardstock, hole-punch the cardstock on the left edge of the paper, and bind the pages with yarn. Or they can place the sheets of cardstock full of compliments in a small photo album to make the book last longer. Once the book is complete, make time during a special meal to have your child read the book to everyone at the dinner table.
Make a ‘goodie bag’
Help your child make a goodie-bag for a special helper in his or her life, such as a tutor or babysitter. Goodie-bags are small and filled with inexpensive treats. To create one, have your child brainstorm all the things that the receiver uses or likes. For example, if your children are creating a goodie-bag for their teen babysitter, she might enjoy books from the Twilight series, Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, or funky faceplates for her cell phone. Once the list is created, have your child select several items from for the gift bag. I would suggest filling the bag with several inexpensive items rather than a couple of pricey ones. The Dollar Tree has loads of cheap, cool treats, and some of the items can even be homemade (cookies or friendship bracelets). Once complete, have your child present the bag to that special person just because.
Just say it
The thank you gifts that make you feel like a million bucks are often the least expensive. Therefore, teach your child how to make others feel special this month by simply saying, “Thanks.” Think of the professionals who don’t receive much praise, such as librarians, custodians or cross guards, and have your children say thank you each time they serve your child. For example, remind your child to say “thank you” to the bus driver before exited. Teach your child to always thank the lunchroom staff at their school as soon as food hits their trays, and encourage your child to say thanks once a crossing guard gets them safely across the street. Incorporating praise into their daily life will not only help them make others feel appreciated, it will also encourage whom they praise to spread that appreciation around.
The gifts that you instill in your children are the seeds of growth for the next generation. So plant the seed of gratitude in your children by showing them how to give thanks to others.
China Hill is a teacher at KIPP Ascend Charter School on the West Side.