Happy Mom Talk Monday!! It sure has been awhile since I have featured a guest and I am beyond excited to introduce Danielle Schaffer to you all, in this awesome post about Raising Gracious Children During the Holidays!
I look up to Danielle in more ways than one! She is an amazing mother, business women, friend, entrepreneur, and pretty hilarious. I have always loved following Danielle and find so much inspiration with everything that she does. She is REAL and just as genuine as they come and will always make you smile or laugh.
Danielle shares a wide variety on IG and her blog, but one thing is certain, she loves her family. I love this piece she shares about A practice in gratitude and raising gracious children during the holidays, and I hope you do too!
MEET DANIELLE SCHAFFER
A Practice in Gratitude: Raising Gracious Children During the Holidays
Whether you want to believe it or not, the holiday season is now upon us! Thanksgiving came and went, and we all know that means Christmas isn’t far behind. It’s a time for giving and receiving amongst family and friends, but you know what else? It’s the time when you practically pray that your child won’t be the one to shout, “but I don’t LIKE this gift!” or to be so wrapped up in the fun of opening presents by the tree that they can’t be bothered to be gracious.
Here’s the thing though – if your child isn’t gracious by nature, it is our job as parents to teach them how to think of others, how to be grateful, and how to express that gratitude in loving ways.
Dylan is my only daughter, and sometime there is a lot of pressure to raise a girl who is full of grace, but I want all my children to possess those traits of kindness and thankfulness, so Dylan isn’t the only one who learns these lessons – so do Jackson, Roman, and even Brody isn’t too young. It’s never too soon to teach your children how to be grateful. If you’ve needed some motivation to work on that in your family, the holiday season is a great time to ramp it up.
Here are some of the things that Bobby and I have done to make sure our children are expressing the things we most want them to.
“Three Things” at dinner
A great way to cultivate gratitude is to do a round table during dinner. I love to have a strong focus on family dinners anyway because it’s so important to have everyone sit down to eat together as often as possible. While we’re all there, we like to take turns expressing three things we are grateful for from that day.
While it’s nice to hear, “I’m grateful for Mom and Dad” I try to steer it towards more specific things – and it doesn’t always have to be something big. Just hearing one of my kids say, “I’m grateful that I had a great day at school” is amazing! Give it a try, let your kids pick things that are big or small, and prepare to be overjoyed by the things that fill them with gratitude.
And if you’re having some people – extended family or friends – over for dinner during the holidays, it can be a lot of fun to get them in on playing too.
What I love about you
Another fun activity at the dinner table is to have each person at the table list one thing that they love about everyone else in the family. It can be general (like Brody saying “I love that Roman plays with me”) or something specific to that day (such as Dylan saying “I love that Jackson helped me figure out my math homework”), as long as it’s something positive and sincere.
And make sure Mom and Dad take a turn! Bobby and I take part as well so the kids all know what we love about them each day – and they get to hear us complimenting each other too. It’s so important to model the behaviors that we want to see in our children.
Pass it along
Let’s be honest for a minute. How often have you packed up toys that no one plays with and dropped them in the donation bin while the kids are in school so you don’t have to deal with hearing “but I love that toy” even if they haven’t touched it in a year? I’ve been there because sometimes It’s just easier. But there can be strong lessons in being gracious if you get them to help you.
I like to have the kids go through the old toys that have been sitting in the bottom of bins or the back of closets and explain that while these toys don’t get used anymore in our home, they can bring joy and happiness to other children who maybe don’t have as many toys to play with. It can provide a strong connection to helping others when you let them know what it means to donate something to someone in need.
And if it truly is too chaotic and too difficult to get your children to part with their old toys (the younger they are, the more painful it tends to be), then try old clothing. Go through the outgrown clothes that are still in good shape and have them help you fold them up to take to your favorite donation spot.
Adopt a family for the holidays
Many organizations put together programs where you can “adopt” a family for Christmas and that can be a great experience for your kids as well. Once you’re assigned your family and know what ages you’re shopping for, it’s heartwarming to watch your kids in the store, picking out the perfect gift for a stranger to open on Christmas morning.
The family that volunteers together is grateful together
Do you have a Saturday afternoon that’s free? Or even better, perhaps a day during the holiday season where you don’t have 800 activities to whirl through? Look around your community and see what volunteering opportunities are available that are age appropriate. Some great ideas include helping out in a soup kitchen (even little ones can hand out cutlery or rolls, while the bigger ones can manage serving food onto the plates), going to your local food bank to pack up items that will be delivered to different locations, or calling your community center to see if there are programs you can attend.
Another fun volunteer activity is to take the family to a nursing home. Some residents don’t have any family nearby – or even any family that cares enough to visit – and it can be hard for them, especially during the holiday season, when they may be feeling a bit lonely. Having a visit from your children can fill their hearts. Older children can read to them while younger ones can sing Christmas songs.
Doing things that benefit others who may not be as fortunate as your children is a wonderful way to not only help out but to make them appreciate everything they have.
Be thankful in writing
Writing thank you notes is just about a lost art. In a world where you can send a quick “hey thx” text, dare to be different. Teach kids how to write a note that expresses how happy a gift made them. Help them learn how to go beyond the basic “thank you” and have them explain what they love about the gift – and about the person who gifted it!
Even if you have a child who can’t write yet, you can have them dictate their message while you write it for them, and then have them draw a picture to go with it.
Notes have always been a beautiful way to display your gratitude, but now when they are so rare they hold an extra oomph that the recipient will love. Bonus, if you teach them young enough, then you won’t have to nag them when they’re older!
Be gracious even if you don’t love that gift
“I already have this!” “I don’t like yellow!” “Oh. That’s not the one I wanted.” Out of the mouths of babes, right? Children don’t always have a very strong filter and if they’re not into a gift they aren’t usually shy about saying so. Hopefully most people know not to take it personally but if someone put some thought into their present it can still sting a little bit.
Before normal gift-giving times (such as now, as Christmas looms ahead), it can be helpful to remind your children to simply say thank you, even if they’re not excited about the gift. They don’t have to be over the top, but a simple “thank you very much” can go a long way. Not only is this a nice thing to teach them, over time it will sink in that the thought matters just as much as the gift itself and to be grateful for that even if the present is not ideal (and if it’s not, they can use if for their donation contribution!).
All children learn through play. We love to use playtime to model ways to be gracious. Even if your child is serving you a “burger” from their toy kitchen set while you play restaurant with them, it’s a chance to set an example. If Roman or Brody are playing chef I will act out the part of the grateful customer who says, “Oh thank you, this looks delicious!”
It sounds like such a small thing but children really do take in the nuances of play and use them in everyday life.
Playing tea party? “Thank you so much for this tea!” Playing library? “Thank you for finding me the perfect book!” It’s so easy to slip examples of gratitude into games.
Be gracious yourself
You can’t expect your kids to be gracious if you aren’t. Genuinely thank your children when they do something kind or help out at home – even if you have to ask them to do it in the first place. Whether they’re helping to clear the table or just playing together nicely you will always hear me thanking my group. How can they learn to extend gratitude to others if I don’t practice what I preach?
I also think it’s important for children to hear us being thankful to others. Let them hear you being grateful to your spouse for putting the groceries away, to your neighbor for dropping off a batch of cookies, to a stranger for holding the door for you. The more they see and hear, more natural it will be for them to do the same.
We truly model the way we want our children to behave. I am grateful for so much in my life, and I want them to feel the same way, so I express it loud and clear whenever I have the chance, especially when I know they’re listening. (Hint: They’re always listening!)
What about you?
Let me know how you instill grace and gratitude in your children. And tell me one thing you’re grateful for right now. I’ll go first – I am grateful for all of YOU.
Happy Holidays to you all!
NAVY GRACE Q&A WITH DANIELLE
Q: How did you get started as a blogger/influencer:
A: If you knew me growing up you would understand that having a blog is the perfect segue to my life. I went to school for TV production and taught photography and broadcast journalism for over 10 years. Over a bottle of wine, 7 years ago my husband came up with the name citygirlgonemom. I decided instead of sharing my life on facebook, I would start a website that would follow our life for our friends and family back on the east coast. Never in a million years would I think I would have a full staff as my website has become a business.
A special thanks to Danielle for joining us today!
Here is where you can find Danielle:
What did you like most about what Danielle Schaffer had to share? Let me know in a comment below!