Gratitude in preschoolers

Being rude upon receiving a gift doesn’t happen often with the kids here, but it did happen a couple of times that warranted me to sit and post about it. I recall a situation with the free banana, for example. More recently, a similar situation occurred with a Christmas present just last month.

Benjamin got some really awesome presents this year. Awesome as far as he was concerned, naturally. But he also received clothes for Christmas. Good quality clothes. Clothes that he needed. Clothes his parents thought were awesome. But he had other opinions about the clothes.

His verbal negative reaction to a navy blue fleece hoodie, and some snow pants, was very upsetting to me.

“Not again, dumb clothes”, he said out loud, or something to that effect.

I witnessed it, thankfully, and pulled him aside immediately. Then I launched into a little speech; one that has been repeated openly and often since that fateful Christmas day.

It went something like this:

Benjamin. People bring you presents because they love you. The presents they bring you are special no matter what they are. Even if they are clothes, or a toy you already have, I expect you to be polite and thank them for it. Just think about how they are in the store looking around at things, thinking about you. They see something they feel will make you happy and they go buy it especially for you. You will thank them for thinking of you and for bringing you a present, no matter what the present is. This is what I expect of you, and this is what you will do next time you receive a present.

I paraphrase here, but that is the gist.

His dad was somewhat apologetic to his family when Ben reacted negatively about the clothes they brought him. He said something about how much Ben will appreciate the snow pants when he’s skating, or romping around in the backyard, even if he isn’t showing gratitude now.

But I felt an immediate, hands-on approach was not only necessary, it was important. Hence the speech.

That was Christmas. Next comes…his birthday.

The idea of having an organized birthday party, which up until his 4th birthday last year we have not done, is stressing me out a little bit. He wishes for such a party, now that he has friends and a life outside of his immediate family. And he knows what it’s like, to be the birthday child at a party like this. He has been invited to several since toddlerhood.

We are prepared to give him his wish, and have such a party for him in March.

However, I have already started preparing him for the fact that he will quite possibly get a toy that he already owns. (In all honesty, this is very unlikely to happen unless it is Lego. Benjamin’s family isn’t one to go shopping for toys at the local Toys R Us, or Walmart, and the amount of plastic toys made in China that have made their appearances in our home has been slight, relatively speaking).

Regardless, this refrain will be a staple in our home for the foreseeable future.

Be thankful that people love you and want to give you a present. Be polite to the person who took time out of their day to select a present for you. Thank them, always.


2 thoughts on “Gratitude in preschoolers

  1. Bravo for you, Javamom.

    You will do well to remember this speach for you will repurpose it often in the future.

    In essence, it is to teach a child to respect other people. Respect their time, respect their efforts, respect them as people. Even or especially if what they represent to us is NOT what we would wish it to be. (The wrong gift, for example.)

    I use this most when walking along in town with my children: please do not throw your trash on Mr. X’s lawn. He may leave his garden as he pleases, and we may not appreciate how he chooses to take care of his lawn, but we will show him respect by treating his property like we treat our own. This is not a public garbage dump and we will not use it as such. (Spoken for example about Mr. X’s garden which is overgrown and full of tossed trash. Just because other people do it and he does not clear it up, we will not do it.)

    And his Dad can learn to say: Thank you for the thoughtful gift for Benjamin. I know he will appreciate it. We are working on his manners.

    This sends a message to Benjamin, too. He sees how his parents value thankfulness and politeness.

    As parents we say thank you on behalf of our children and apologize for our children until they are old enough to carry this responsibility themselves.

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