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Attitude of Gratitude

Sadly, there are some children who have not yet learned to have an ‘Attitude of Gratitude’ when receiving a gift. They might make faces if they receive something not to their liking or sulk and say "I already have this" if they get a duplicate. It’s so simple to help children to learn how to appreciate what they have and what they receive. It's also simple and extremely important to teach them how to give.

As the holiday season begins to chug along toward its wrapping-ripping conclusion, here are some ideas to help little ones see the bigger picture, more of the reason for the season, as they celebrate and have fun too.

1)  For Christmas and other gift-giving occasions this time of year, make a wish list for family and friends (and Santa), but limit the number of presents that can be on it. Back in the day, it was common for children to sit with large catalogs from department stores and circle everything they wanted. And now, as they are influenced by the bombardment of TV, Internet, and other advertising, children of all ages want more, more, more. But it's important to have less, less, less -- to save space, to be able to organize everything easily, to guarantee one will actually use what she or he receives, and to help the environment by not eventually overloading landfills with unwanted, unused plastic toys, games, and other things. List limiting also makes children choose what they really want and eliminates feelings of entitlement to getting whatever they desire.

2)  Choose one currently owned toy to donate to charity for each new toy that's received. Explain that there are many children who don't have any toys and it would be nice to share with them. Children often believe that everyone is like them -- that all children live the same way, have the same kind of family and the same living situations, but that's not the case. Doing this when kids are little helps to encourage a lifetime of sharing, giving, and compassion.

3) Saying thank you is nice, but writing it is even better. Have the children write a thank you for each gift received. Even the littlest among them can draw a crayon mark that is just theirs after Mom or Dad writes the actual note. Explain as the note is being written why it's important to thank someone for their generosity and kindness, for their thoughtfulness. Just like saying "please" is important, so is "thank you." And for a gift, it's a nice gesture to take the time to write a note specifically to the giver of a gift. It makes the gift buyer feel good and, for the children, reinforces the ideas of gratitude and thankfulness.

There are many opportunities throughout the year to reinforce gratitude, sharing, and caring. But the holidays create the most amazing tied-with-bows opportunities to do so in a really big way.

Author: Tara Lynn Johnson, Philadelphia-region freelance writer and thank you note sender