Growing up, I was never handed anything. My parents always made me earn it through chores or other work. Because of this, I learned to value and care about the things for which I had worked so hard. I didn’t know it then, but not only were my parents teaching me lessons about work ethic, they were also teaching me about gratitude. A great way for parents to learn how to teach gratitude is through work.
When I had my four kids, I wanted them to learn similar lessons. Thankfully, I found homeschooling books to help me integrate my desire into my homeschool.
One of my favorite books all those years ago was The Successful Homeschool Family Handbook by Dr. Raymond and Dorothy Moore. In this book, the Moores talked about service and work being essential pillars of a successful homeschool. They are your allies in combatting the disease called entitlement that currently plagues our culture.
How to Teach Gratitude through Work
Don’t Give Them Whatever They Want
As parents, we want to give our kids the moon, don’t we? But, by giving them what they want on a regular basis, we harm their character. This is especially true if we give in to temper tantrums. But, it is also true when we bribe them.
We should never give special trips, treats, toys, and other desires in order to make a child stop crying or stomping around. (Even in a grocery store. In fact, especially not in grocery stores.) And, we should not offer a bribe for good behavior.
If we do this, we teach the child to manipulate us (For example, saying “What will you give me if I am good at the restaurant?” and then only behaving well when they get something for doing so.) So, we don’t give reward tantrums, we don’t bribe, and we don’t give our kids whatever they want.
Have Clear Ways for Them to Earn What They Want
Put up a chart of chores and how much money they are worth. Get creative with your chores if you want. Or, if you prefer, use points or tokens instead of money.
Kids immediately start to equate work with value. Then, they see more clearly the value of that thing that they want.
Learning the value of work and that their own actions can help them attain what they want empowers them. It also helps them appreciate how much time and effort it takes for people to get those things. Then, they are better able to understand what it takes for others to supply for their needs.
Encourage Entrepreneurial Bents
In my house, I still expect the children to help out with chores even when, at age 13, they no longer receive any money for doing them.
For one, they make most of the mess and so, they should help clean up regardless. Second, I want them to learn to use their creative muscle to come up with other ways to earn money.
For my daughters, this was fairly easy. One daughter had a longstanding church childcare opportunity when the women’s ministry met for Tuesday morning Bible study. My other daughter had a small cheesecake business for a while. Then, she also did pet sitting.
My sons had fewer opportunities, but for my oldest son, more lucrative. He had a winter snow removal job that earned him enough money to last him for quite a while. Then, he did graphic design work as well. My youngest just turned 13, so we’ll see. So far, he is thinking he’d like to start an Etsy shop.
When working on how to teach gratitude, try having them work for what they get. When you feel like treating them, make it an infrequent, random surprise just because you feel like it. That, too, will instill gratitude. They will not only appreciate their stuff more, they’ll appreciate you more, too.
Julie Polanco is a trained master herbalist, author, speaker, podcaster, blogger, and 18 year veteran homeschooling mom of four. Catch her at julienaturally.com or crunchychristianpodcast.com where she helps Christian homeschooling families embrace a more natural life.
— Julie A. Polanco CEO and owner, Julie Naturally, LLC Author, speaker, podcaster, blogger Get the first chapter of my book, God Schooling, FREE when you go to GodSchoolingBook.com.
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