Being a parent is a full-time job. This day and age present a unique set of challenges for raising a child. It’s not always easy to juggle a career, family, and a social life, much less to make sure we’re doing the best for our kids, spouse, and friends. Of course, the priority is clear.
We convince ourselves that there are infinite ways to be a bad parent, but that sentiment could be boiled down to pessimism—there are infinite ways to be a great parent too. We would do anything for our kids, but we also want to impart them with good values. Specifically, we don’t want to spoil our children to the point that they become ungrateful.
As we think ahead to what we’ll be showing appreciation for this Thanksgiving, we reached out to Giacomo Bono, PhD, for tips on how to raise a grateful child. Bono is a child psychologist and author of Making Grateful Kids, and he has created a school curriculum called Thanks! A Strengths-Based Gratitude Curriculum for Tweens and Teens, which both parents and teachers can use to their advantage. His advice has one consistent theme: empathy. The more support a parent can show their child will breed good habits and healthy expression—all key ingredients in becoming a grateful person into adulthood.
Know Their Character Strengths
As children mature, they begin to develop their own unique personalities, and it’s important to pay attention to who they become. The first step in Bono’s gratitude curriculum is to take a character strength survey to determine what traits come naturally to them; from there you can determine how to teach and support your child. You may be surprised at the results. “I hadn’t realized that my youngest son’s biggest strength was humor!” Bono told MyDomaine. “Now I understand that he’s using sarcasm to be funny, and we’ve been able to grow from there.”
Listen to Them When They Need Help
Between work and social obligations, our time and attention are valuable. Don’t forget to share some of it with your children. They need to see that we’re interested in them in order to build meaningful connections with other people in their lives.
Trust the Village
Some parents want to follow their child’s every move, and we totally get it. But you also must trust the other mentors in your child’s life. In trying to teach one of his sons how to tie his shoes, Dr. Bono and his wife did everything—the lesson finally got through when it came from his son’s karate sensei. “Now we trust him to help impart ideas our son may be resistant to otherwise,” such as doing homework on time and other responsibilities, the doctor added.
Make Time for Bonding
Parents can be just as guilty of being on their phones as their kids, so make efforts to break the habit. Ban phones from the dinner table, or schedule another time for bonding, such as going on regular walks around the neighborhood.
Give Them Unpaid Responsibilities
You can spoil your child in other ways while still teaching them about responsibility. Give your kids chores around the house without an allowance to show them that hard work is its own reward.
Encourage family teamwork
While related to the point above, it is also important to show children that they are part of the family team. If setting the dinner table is part of their assigned chores, everyone that will be eating can lend a hand. Doing activities together makes them feel less like work and will build trust throughout the family.
Up next: 7 gorgeous Thanksgiving tablescapes to try before the main event.