Snarky Lunch Bag Notes Will Not Teach My Child Gratitude (Though I’m Tempted To Write Them)

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Learn the do’s and don’ts for teaching kids gratitude from Kami Gilmour.

Dear child from my womb: sometimes you act like a spoiled brat.

Okay, so I didn’t really leave this note in my son’s lunch bag the other day, but I briefly wanted to. Foul-tempered claims about how I “never” give him what he wants (audacious!), coupled with passive-aggressive tactics designed to slow down our morning routine (mutinous!), had me composing chastising notes all day.

Doesn’t he realize how good he has it? How much God has blessed him with parents like us!? Why isn’t he grateful for the sacrifices we make for him every day?

The nerve of some people.

Eventually I calmed down. He is, after all, just a kid without a grown-up perspective. As his parent, it’s my job to enlighten him about his fortune, and snarky notes won’t help the cause. Instead, I’m going to focus on these four do’s and don’ts and leave his lunchbox note-free.

Do’s and Don’ts For Teaching Kids Gratitude

  1. Don’t compare your kids’ situation to starving children in other countries; though true, it won’t sway them unless they’ve personally visited these kids, and they’ll blow it off as cliché. Trust me: eye-rolling will commence.

Do a few things each year that place your kids in the company of people who are less fortunate, and educate them holistically throughout the year about how people live all over the world (and not as an object lesson for their ungratefulness, tempting as that may be).

  1. Don’t threaten to take things away…and then never follow through.

Do take things away for short periods of time. Not having things we’ve come to take for granted reminds us about how much we appreciate them, and encourages us to take care of what we do have.

  1. Don’t bury them under lists of things they have that they SHOULD be grateful for (as reasonable as those lists may be).

Do a purge with them. There is magic in piling up our belongings and then sorting through them, separating what we like and use from what we don’t touch or don’t love. Realizing how much we have that we don’t need makes a strong impression. (Note: this plan doesn’t work well with toddlers who haven’t yet learned how to share. You’ve been warned.)

  1. Don’t start sentences with, “When I was your age, I would have been happy with …. {fill in the blank}.” First, it’s not true; you were an ungrateful kid once, too. Second, your kids won’t be persuaded by this argument.

Do express a lot of verbal gratitude about the things you personally have now. Practice gratitude openly in front of your kids; it will rub off on them eventually. ) Or at least that’s the theory I’m going with.)

Also, DO read the Bible together for what it has to say about thankfulness, and pray to be more grateful as a family. DO practice forgiveness when selfishness trumps kindness and respect. And DO thank God out loud in front of each other when good (and even challenging) things happen.

If none of these things work, I still haven’t completely ruled out snarky lunchbox notes. But it’s a last resort and I’m confident I won’t have to use it.

Written by: Kami Gilmour

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