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The word “appreciation” means really seeing something for what it is- an awareness of how special, how lucky, how unique, how blessed, how big, wonderful or awesome something is. Appreciation is a recognition not based on comparison, but based on the intrinsic value, character or immensity of a thing or state itself.
Some people are born “appreciators”. They see the world at its essence- the beauty of a sunset, the fragile green of a leaf, the boundless energy of a small child. Others must be helped to learn to see the beauty and wonder in the world.
Gratitude is one form of appreciation that is easier to express. Thankfulness is part of our religious and cultural heritage and the antidote to selfishness and complaining. It can come in the form of praise, recognition or humility.
Another form of appreciation is respect toward someone or something valued. In relationships this translates as care, concern, fair treatment and courtesy.
Teaching your child to appreciate starts at birth with your loving regard toward him or her and continues throughout the life of your relationship. As they observe the way you view and deal with people, things, and situations, they will no doubt learn to appreciate also.
Nature is a major doorway to appreciation. The unarguable beauty and power encountered in natural places inspires a young child’s appreciation. The sound of a bird in the tree overhead, the rustling grass as the wind passes by, a butterfly lighting briefly on a blossom- all are breathlessly beautiful and awe-inspiring!
Take frequent forays into wild places. Let your child experience the wonders of nature through their senses. Walk through well-tended gardens and notice the colors, shapes and smells you encounter. They will see your obvious pleasure and join you in your appreciation. Share what you’ve experienced later by reviewing the experience.
Care is an important aspect of appreciation. Help your child take care of their things. Teach them to respect their belongings and the property of others. Demonstrate an attitude of thankfulness for what you have and for your life together. Prayer, celebrations and shared reflection are simple ways to express your gratitude.
Affection is a powerful way to express appreciation. Hugs, kisses and loving words show your child how much you value him and others. Simple thank-yous given often and sincerely introduce your child to the graciousness of appreciation. There is no more powerful teacher than your own example!
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Young school age children are strongly influenced by those outside the home. They may encounter those who lack appreciation and respect for people and property. You will need to counter this by continuing to deliberately teach and demonstrate appreciation.
One fun way to do this is to create a “Thankfulness Tree”. Using construction paper, or a cardboard tube, make a “trunk” for your tree. Cut out colorful leaves and have each family member write something they are thankful for on them. Each week add another set of leaves to the tree. Take time afterward to re-read the leaves. You’ll be surprised what your family will come up with!
Keeping a family journal, perhaps alongside a photo album or scrapbook, can provide a running record of gratitude. Take time every month to update events or developments that have inspired thankfulness. Encourage but don’t require participation each time, but know your contributions are setting a standard they will internalize.
Use holidays as opportunities to show appreciation for what you have, for each other, and for what you’ve experienced over the year. Your child will develop an appreciation for the “seasons of life” in this way. Sometimes an event such as illness, death or other tragedy can later viewed as a blessing.
Openly thank your child’s teachers, coaches and care providers. Encourage your youngster to do the same.
Again, make sure your child knows you appreciate them. Praise, noticing effort and accomplishment and kind words need to be part of the climate of the thankful home. Prayer remains a powerful vehicle for gratitude at this age.
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Older school age children can begin to show appreciation in more tangible ways. It is important to foster the development of gratitude in order to keep your youngster’s heart open at a time when many around them are “shutting down” in this way.
A good extension of the family journal is to provide your child with a journal of their own. Writing out their thoughts and feelings is a wonderful way to express what they may find difficult to verbalize. Journaling requires time, thought and reflection and opens a doorway for appreciation that might not otherwise be opened.
Provide your older child their own stationary, including thank you notes. You may need to prompt them to send thank yous, but if they have seen you do this, they will feel quite grownup sending them. Show them how to be specific when expressing their gratitude.
Volunteering to work at an animal rescue or shelter, read to older folks at a nursing home, or participate in a community cleanup or food shelter can provide your child with opportunities to realize their own blessings and give back by being a blessing to others. This is one of the most powerful ways of teaching appreciation- by showing them appreciation has both receptive and expressive qualities.
Again, your own appreciation and how you show it will be the best teacher for your child. Know that how you view and respond to the world around you and the life you live will be the critical factor in opening your child’s heart to appreciation.
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Resources that can help you in your venture include:
Posted in Character.