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January 8, 1999

Beyond the Season of Thankfulness

Laurie Kobliska, Editor

SAN FRANCISCO - Children take things for granted because that is all they know, until they are taught thankful behavior. Once children begin their first words of Mama and Dada, its up to parents to introduce please and thank you. It's a natural transition. "Juice?" 18 month old Bennett pleads. This is the perfect time to introduce manners. "Can you say please?" "Please?"

     Bennett eventually repeats after his mother,"Peas?" Ahh, it's a success. Constant reminders at appropriate times will be necessary for a few years, but as each week, month and year progresses, basic good manners and old verbal exchanges will become a natural part of their language as new ones are introduced. It is up to the parent to keep this idea in the forefront of daily activity and to praise their child for good behavior.

     Opportunities are everywhere for reinforcing thankful behavior. When gifts are received at birthdays and holidays children can be taught to write thank you notes and pictures. It works best with young ones, around age 4-6, by setting guidelines beforehand. For example, one mother tells her child that after all the gifts are opened and the party is over, that all the thank you notes must be written before he can play with any of the toys and other gifts. Of course each child's ability will vary.

     Perhaps the child dictates and the parents writes, or the child writes and is helped with spelling and so on. This is where it starts. Send a strong message that it is important to express appreciation to other people. Point out to your children the wondrous things around you in nature. Remind them that there are other things to be thankful for besides material possessions, a home, food on the table, family and friends, and good health. Compare your lifestyle to those less fortunate than you.

     Children should be taught to appreciate what they have. One mother makes a thankfulness tree and puts it on her refrigerator door. Some people do this during the holidays, she begins it new years day. First she cuts a tree with only branches out of brown paper then with green construction paper she and her three children and husband cut leaves with enough space to share some words. Each Sunday they each member writes down one thing they are thankful for and attaches it to the tree.

     By years end their tree is full and they are reminded of things forgotten. Another mom Takes a picture of the child wearing or playing with the gift and writes a brief thank you on the back.


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