5 Steps to Teach Children Appreciation

Tiffany Anderson

Knowing how important it is to instill life values at a young age, how do we simply and effectively teach our preschooler appreciation?

That is a question I have been pondering and researching for the last few months. This year I have felt that my oldest preschooler is having extreme difficulty showing and feeling appreciation. She seems overwhelmed with discontent this season. Every store that we enter, she wants something, even if she just bought something earlier from another store.

Learning and understanding the concept of appreciation is an important characteristic of interpersonal relationships.  We do our kids a disservice if we do not teach them to appreciate all they have.  These simple steps are easy to implement, and with consistency and patience, they can have a profound and positive impact on your little ones in a matter of days!

1. Model Appreciation

Just as we parents model courtesy and politeness in saying Please and Thank You, we also need to proactively model appreciation if we want our little ones to develop this trait. When someone does something for us, or says something nice to us, do we make a point of expressing to our children how much we appreciate what that person did, and the reason why?

An aspect of appreciation is contentment. Do our children see our contentment for our material belongings, or do they see us pining for the latest and greatest? Or hear us muttering that we need a better this, and a better that?

TIP: Have them help you pick out a thank-you card, then watch you write it (if they’re too young to write it themselves), and have them put it in the mailbox or hand deliver it to a friend, for something they appreciate.

2.  Role Play

We teach our children to roll over, sit up, eat, walk, talk, run . . . the list goes on. How do we teach many of these abilities? Through role play. All too often we are exclusively reactive and tell our children that they are being unappreciative if they throw a fit over not getting yet another toy. However, wouldn’t it be much more positive if we were proactive in teaching them ahead of time, how we expect them to act in certain situations?

We could take a few minutes at any point in our day to teach appreciation through role play. You can play a part, have a beloved stuffed animal play a part, or another family member play a part.

TIP: Pretend you’re at the store, surrounded by toys. What do you expect of your child? Is it okay to ask for a toy if they do so in a well-mannered way? How many toys, if any, can they ask for? If they are given a toy, what is your expectation afterward? What can they expect in a disciplinary sense if they don’t meet your expectations?Enact all these scenarios in a fun environment. You’ll be pleasantly surprised how well they’ll follow through the next time they’re at the store. They may remember exactly what to do, even in the face of overwhelming Toys ‘R Us temptations, or they may quickly recollect what’s expected after a brief, gentle reminder.

 3.  Appreciation Jar

Whether you call it a Blessing Jar, a Grateful Jar, a Thankful Jar or an Appreciation Jar, the idea is not new. I love this idea. You can customize it to fit your goals and family, and it can be filled with items collected from daily activities, family vacations, words of wisdom, whatever you like. It’s fun and teaches appreciation. It’s a wonderful way to bring the family together.  Bonus: it is an awesome memory keeper!

TIP: Look on Pinterest for tutorials and ideas in making your own Appreciation Jar. Use it every day. Read The Blessings Jar: A Story About Being Thankful together to build appreciation and get ideas for your Appreciation Jar. {This is a popular board book with the aim of teaching an important lesson about appreciating all our blessings.}

4.  Donate Toys

At first glance, you may think I’m going to recommend teaching your child to be charitable. That is an excellent quality to develop. However, this step is a little more detailed. It’s a new tool in my arsenal that is working quite well!

If either of my girls expresses discontent for their toys, I try to determine the reason. If the reason is lack of appreciation or ingratitude, they are told that some other child will appreciate the toy. If they continue to complain that they only want new toys, a toy is put in a bag for charity. I make it clear that if they don’t want the toy, then they truly won’t have a problem giving it to someone else who has less. This tool has been beneficial in two ways:

  1. They consider that someone has less; sometimes they want to give that toy away in a spirit of generosity.
  2. They consider that they have much to appreciate, and they should express appreciation rather than discontent.

TIP: Take the concept of donating toys to another level. If your child continually demands more toys when you’re shopping, then return (or “donate”) the toy they originally picked, go back to the store, and leave without purchasing any more toys.  This will quickly cut down on the demand for more, more, more.

5.  Commend Them

Our children make us proud each and every day. If we commend them and let them know the specific behavior they’ve displayed that makes us proud, it will motivate them to continue growing their positive behavior. Think of how they’ve successfully learned common courtesy like saying please and thank you. They’ve learned to pay with hugs and kisses. They’ve learned to share with others. They’ve learned to show consideration, and ask how a person is feeling. All these behaviors have been taught, and reinforced with commendation.

TIP: Today, look for a unsolicited act of appreciation from your child – a thank you for a glass of water, a toy put away, a dish cleared off the table, a pretty weed presented as a flower  – whatever it is, make a point to emphasize how they have displayed appreciation, and commend them in a large way! Then once they’re in the mood to please you, discuss how they can show appreciation in other ways that will also make you proud.

Despite the materialistic attitude prevalent in our society, children can be taught appreciation. It will come with continued modeling, discussions, commendation, and maturity.  Our persistence and patience as caring parents will pay off.



5 Steps to Teach Children Appreciation

This post was syndicated with permission to BonBon Break Media, LLC.

Tiffany Anderson was born in and raised all over the US, and currently lives in North Carolina with her husband and children. She works from home as a managing partner of a contract design firm, which allows her to homeschool her children. She is also the creator, editor and writer of Mommy Methodology, a website dedicated to finding both healthy lifestyle methods, and natural parenting methods. As a working mom with a chronic illness she aims to write about tips and recommendations for health, home, parenting, and schooling in an informative yet concise manner.