How To Teach Your Kids Appreciation This Christmas

Rural Mom is happy to welcome guest Annie the Nanny, Canada’s behaviour adjusting nanny, whose parenting website http:// offers behaviour intervention services and general parenting support.  Annie the Nanny is sharing her inspiring insights on teaching children appreciation this holiday season: 

Do you dream of a wonderful warm Christmas with family and friends? I do. Let’s face it, it’s the stuff of Christmas cards and those sappy Christmas movies many of us love to watch. The snow is softly falling outside and everyone is cuddled up in warm affectionate family love. It’s all enough to melt your hot chocolate.

How To Teach Your Kids Appreciation This Christmas

However, I also know that it virtually never turns out like that. My brother in law makes rude comments about the almond infusion in my Christmas almond tarts until I want to take him for a walk and accidentally lose him in the forest. My husband gets grumpy because he’s trying to put on a brave face while family or friends feed the dog from the table. This table feeding has the unpleasant offshoot of creating a miniature dachshund with such a obsessive compulsive steak disorder that means he’s never more than two inches from your foot.

You see, Christmas comes with expectations and with the gathering of family and friends the possibilities that something might go wrong starts to grow exponentially. What if your two year old throws constant fits because they don’t want to eat what everyone else is eating? What if your four year old doesn’t show any appreciation for their special present from Granny and after tearing open the wrapping paper, promptly shoves the present aside in favour of something else? What are you going to do?

Well you could bury your head under the coffee in hopeless embarrassment but instead, why don’t we see if we can get it the kids to appreciate things before the season of festivities comes upon us. So, can you teach appreciation and if you can, how should you go about doing it?

The first thing to understand is that appreciation comes from empathy. You can’t appreciate something if you don’t have the first idea of what someone had to do to get it or give it. You see, when you’re three you simply don’t realize what a present represents.

Let’s think about that for a moment. When it comes to giving a present, first you have to figure out what whoever you’re giving the present to might like. To do that you have to find out about that person. Do they like gardening? Do they like crafts? Are they in to being pampered?

Then you have to put yourself in their shoes to figure out what might be useful or nice for them. To do that you have to be empathic. The dictionary describes being empathetic as, ‘the psychological identification with the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of others. Perhaps your potential gift recipient likes being pampered? Ok, so what feels nice? How about a gift certificate to have their nails done, or a nice cushion for their neck in the bath?

Children don’t understand innately how to put themselves in someone else’s shoes so so they need to be taught. The only way to do that is to show them and we do that by teaching them to be aware.

So start pointing out how other people are feeling. If you see the next door neighbour struggling to get rid of snow with her bad hip, point out her grimacing face and then go outside with your child to give her a hand. Give your child a snow shovel too and you make an even bigger impression. Once you’re done, let your neighbour express her natural appreciation to your child. The more children feel good by helping others, the more they’ll want to help and the more appreciative they’ll be when you help them because they’ll know what’s involved.

Teaching awareness has lots of great offshoots too because suddenly they might start noticing how you feel. That’s a big bonus. It’s the best Christmas present you’ll get when your child starts seeing you as someone with feelings of your own. When you’re feeling like a wreck, need a few minutes off your feet and your child notices and says “Oh mommy you look tired, sit down.” Such a comment can make you feel gooey all over with love, even if it only lasts for 5 seconds before they ask you why aren’t you making dinner.

Last but not least to get your child to appreciate things, make sure you show appreciation for things yourself. Model appreciation by taking time over your presents, acknowledging the effort and stopping to thank people for their thoughtfulness. Appreciation after all, goes both ways.

Barb Webb. Founder and Editor of Rural Mom, is an the author of "Getting Laid" and "Getting Baked". A sustainable living expert nesting in Appalachian Kentucky, when she’s not chasing chickens around the farm or engaging in mock Jedi battles, she’s making tea and writing about country living and artisan culture.
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