Category Archives: Parenthood

10 Reasons we need to teach our kids to be grateful and How…

In just over a week, our children will be waking up wide-eyed to see presents in the double digits waiting for them under the Christmas tree.

Every year I promise not to overdo it and then, with presents from relatives, grandparents, friends… and throw in Santa and ourselves, we end up with way more than we planned.

We even started early this year, asking each of our girls to choose one thing they’d really like from Santa. While watching their eyes glaze over while they pawed through the Argos catalogue (don’t ask me how they got this!) circling everything they possibly could, OH and I both realised we had work to do to make sure our kids understood the true spirit of Christmas.

It’s not just this time of year either, it seems like every time we  go into a shop, my kids seem to want everything they lay their eyes on. Like they’ve never seen these things before or because they think they are absolutely entitled to getting at least one treat bought for them every single time we go out.

And if they get the toy, the must-have thing of the year- the L.O.L doll, the Match Attax cards, the Shopkins or the latest Transformer… how long do they really play with it? How did we get to this point? I have often asked myself.

Last week, my oldest daughter admitted L.O.L dolls are actually a bit boring. But with the maturity of someone who understands, she admitted the adverts and Youtube videos make it look so much more exciting.  Admittedly, it hasn’t changed her desperation to get the latest series…How to raise grateful kids in an entitled world

Why is teaching our children gratitude beyond saying “thank you” so important?

I know it makes me feel good when my child thanks another adult or child when they are given something. And that’s because it shows that our child recognises the value in that something, or the effort that person made to give it to them. Obviously, it can just be automatic sometimes, but at other times, when it’s genuine and self-initiated, it feels good to hear it.

If our children recognise the value of something, it makes them feel good and it makes them appreciate that person or something, sometimes even motivating them to do the same for someone else in the future. It’s a social emotion but one that I think all of us recognise can make the world a better place. 

For adults, studies have shown that being and feeling grateful has physical, psychological, and social benefits, including: lowering blood pressure, improving immune function, increasing happiness and well-being, and decreasing feelings of loneliness and isolation. So if we want our children to grow up to be happy, content and well-rounded individuals, helping them appreciate what they have is a big part of that.

What are the benefits of gratitude for children?

As early as 2 years old, children are learning that there are good things and bad things. They start to understand that the world goes beyond just their immediate family and they can start to understand how interconnected we all are, sustained by others and relationships. 

When we care for our children, and show them generosity in different ways, children feel better. Helping them appreciate these acts of kindness can help strengthen relationships and help them to model these behaviours with others. Developing stronger relationships can amount to increased resilience over time. And when a child is resilient, he or she is better able to have a happier, more satisfied, connected life—and a higher sense of purpose.

So How do we raise grateful kids in an entitled world?

My youngest is 3 years old, and it can be a hard concept to grasp- having empathy for those around you, being grateful of what you have and being able to show kindness and appreciation to other people. But we have to start somewhere. And in fact, like most things, it’s probably better to teach them early rather than later.

This year, we decided to be very intentional about it. Here are 10 things you can start doing. 

1) This Christmas or birthday, resist the urge to buy them that one last gift.

I know it’s hard. It was for me. I think we’re accustomed or brainwashed into thinking that if we get them that one last thing, they will be happy. They will, for about 5 minutes.

First thing is to remove half the gifts under the tree. Birthdays will come up, 28 day return policies… whatever. It’s just important that your children appreciate every gift they receive, or at least most and not open them, toss each aside and look for the next one. Reducing the number is one step towards appreciation.

2) Say no to your kids.

They have to hear it because it makes the ‘yes’ more special and they will appreciate whatever it is that much more. In this day an age, we’re taught not to say ‘no’ but to say ‘perhaps you can have it later, or “would you like this instead?” I believe a good old-fashioned, ‘no, you cannot have that’ didn’t hurt anybody. Plus, it means that your children are taught the lesson that they can’t have everything they want. It’s a valuable lesson in life that will set them up for later, hard as it is.

3) Give your kids jobs or chores to do.

Not simple ones but ones that involve hard work. So they begin to appreciate that many things take hard work. I remember one time when my oldest asked me for something and I said, I don’t have any cash on me. She said, “simple, just go to that machine in the wall and get some”. I knew then that I needed to explain something to her. She thought that things just happen, that her bedroom was somehow clean because she woke up that way. No, showing her how to clean her room, put away her toys and make her bed gave my oldest a sense of pride in getting it right. It meant she became a stickler for kids going in her room and messing things up but at least she got the message that it takes hard work to have what you have.

4) It also means sacrificing.

Teach your children that having new things or doing certain things takes sacrifice. Teach them the value of money. Explain to them that if you go to the cinema tomorrow, they won’t be able to also go to softplay. Make them part of that decision so they learn to appreciate what they were able to do and learn that it took a sacrifice of something else they enjoy.

5) When the children get older, you can teach them to give things away,  ask them to go through all of their things and choose items or toys that they no longer want. If they can sell these for cash, use the money to serve others, and let them choose how they want to use the cash.

I read about one Mum who had a do-good day every month. Each month, her children would do extra chores for money such as mowing the lawn, washing the car, picking up garbage from their local park and they would use this money to donate to a local charity.  Her kids got so used to serving others and sharing, they started asking for charity donations in lieu of birthday gifts! How amazing is that? They were so thankful for what they already had, they wanted to give it all back. Let me tell you those kids felt so good about what they were doing and it really made them into confident kids.

6) Being intentional can mean building in regular family rituals that teach the value of gratitude.  

One of these rituals can include an active gratitude practice. Ask each child to bring to mind a person (parent, teacher, coach, etc.) who has been kind to them, but whom they haven’t had the opportunity to thank. Guide them to select a person they can meet face-to-face, then make a plan to deliver a thank-you letter to that person. Make the activity fun and interesting. Ask children how they might want to add to the family gratitude ritual. Novelty is essential for children to remain involved and excited, so try to change things up from time to time.

7) REFLECT.

Choose a moment or moments everyday to reflect as a family about what you are grateful for. We started saying grace at every meal during the summer but somehow it got lost in the hubbub of our lives. But I’d like to reintroduce that idea or at least the idea of thanking God, (the creator, your own spiritual equivalent) for three things we are grateful for each day. We started doing this at night but this can be done at anytime… supper time, bedtime, even on the way home from school. Carving up time within each day to stop and appreciate can have such a big impact- letting children reflect on their own lives and giving thanks for all that they have.

8) Develop an awareness about how we are all interconnected.

Ask each other who do you think made your food, where did it come from , who grew your food, made your clothes, your computer, your tele etc. Play a game and let them understand who and what was involved in bringing that object to you. Reflecting on all the people who helped make that object come alive can help children appreciate and understand their place in the world and how we are all interconnected.

9) Writing thank you cards in advance.

No doubt after Christmas, it will seem like a chore. But before all the excitement is over and while they’re still in anticipation mode, it would be great to capture that energy to thank those who sent them presents, those who invited us for Christmas lunch or those we’d like to remember this holiday. I think it also helps prepare their minds to think about the giver rather than it being one big unwrap-fest in under 3 minutes.

10) Setting expectations. 

Set reasonable expectations when it comes to your children showing gratitude and thankfulness. I read about one Mum whose kids used to complain at dinner, “Chicken again? Why don’t we ever eat anything good?” Who hasn’t heard that said at least once?

The parents sat down with their children and had a heart-to-heart, making it clear that this behaviour was no longer ok. They set an expectation that no matter what they eat, each member of the family will thank the chef for the meal. Since then, thank-yous were sincerely given, even from the two year old, because they set that expectation with their kids.

I know I said 10 but I couldn’t leave this one out. It’s perhaps the most important…

11) Finally, model the behaviour you want your children to possess.

What random acts of kindness do you do in your everyday? I can’t say I’m the best at volunteering and going out of my way for strangers or people in need. So last year, we decided we’d do some baking and take it around to our neighbours. The girls loved the idea of baking for a day and were so into it. Baking three different types of Christmas cookies and truffles in one day was a bit stressful but after closing my eyes to the mess, I did eventually enjoy it. We decorated each one and put them in little boxes ready to take around to friends and neighbours. Afterwards, they asked, ‘why are we giving them away Mama? Can’t we eat them?’ But once they got it, they were all in. They couldn’t knock on enough doors! We were even discouraging them from knocking too many times or avoiding certain doors. For them, it was all or nothing. To our surprise, two neighbours dropped by our flat that very night and gave us champagne and cards in return! A great lesson for them to learn ‘the more you give, the more you receive’. Even I was inspired afterwards.

Do you set an example and show appreciation in everything you do?

  • Do your kids hear you thank others for the help you receive?
  • Do you express a heartfelt thank you for the unexpected hug that lit up your morning?
  • Or for them putting their laundry away without being asked?

What are your top tips for raising grateful children?

Gratitude requires discipline and setting an intention. It is a choice. It’s easy for anyone to take for granted the gift of life and the gifts we individually have.

I think we nailed it. We’ll see next week when the madness begins.

21 Unusual Ideas for Kids Advent Calendars

Are you looking for an alternative to the usual chocolate kids advent calendar this year?

I love Christmas and I love the countdown but I do feel as if the chocolate can get a bit much. Plus, though they love opening up the little windows, it’s just nice to shake it up a bit every couple of years and see how creative you can get.

Thus began my search to find out if there were decent kids advent calendar alternatives that were as exciting as chocolate for three expectant little girls looking for their chocolate fix.

Thankfully, I wasn’t struggling for inspiration. There are loads of alternative kids advent calendar ideas.  From diy-ing it yourself to religious inspired pin ups, candle lighting, crafts and more.

Last year, I was so inspired in fact, I decided to do two. For the visual countdown that both my two year old and four year old could understand, I decided on a Santa’s beard calendar. Each day, they glued on a cotton ball to Santa’s beard marking one more sleep closer to Santa’s arrival. Click the photo below for an instant printable.

Kids Advent Calendars

 

 

 

 

 

 


Playmobil Christmas Nativity Stable with Manger

Then, to add some meaning to our Christmas and in hopes that the girls understood the Christmas story, we bought them the Playmobile Nativity scene. It doesn’t actually come as an advent calendar so I have been boxing one piece for them everyday to create the scene. But, it was a real hit and it was great to see the three of them excited to find what was waiting for them each morning, then being able to play with the miniatures each day.


Advent Around the World

Here is another idea from Thirdculturemama which is about exploring advent globally and remembering others across the world.

Kids Advent Calendars
“So, each day in December, we will locate the country on a map, the kids will get unwrap one small object (tiny items from around the house..surprise, that’s where your toy orange was!) and if we can get our act together, we’ll complete the activity and outreach as well as pray for people we know in that country. You can see how this thing took on a life of its own. Oh dear. Time to recenter on the advent season again.”


Playinchoc Kids Advent Calendar

Kids Advent CalendarThis PLAYin CHOC advent calendar is sooo cute! The advent contains 24 drawers, each calendar drawer contains: 10g organic chocolate with coconut + 3D puzzle & fun facts card. A sweet little 3D puzzle that the kids can play with and put together makes this soo worth it! Once each drawer is removed, replace back to front to form a new picture which will be completed on Christmas Eve.


Disney Snow White 12 Days Beauty Kids Advent Calendar

Kids Advent CalendarsMad Beauty’s Snow White Advent calendar features 12 individual products to enjoy as each window is opened featuring a range of bath and body products all with the a fresh apple fragrance. A great gift to give or receive with classic images from Disney’s’ iconic Snow White & the Seven Dwarves. Open a window a day to enjoy one of these hidden surprises – hand cream, body lotion or body wash, lip balm , bath fizzers , nail file or a body puff.


Coppenrath Victorian Christmas Chest Large Advent Calendar

Kids Advent CalendarsThis Victorian Christmas Chest Large Advent Calendar by Barbara Behr is full of festive fun. The countdown to Christmas begins here with traditional Christmas images the whole family is sure to enjoy.


LEGO City Advent Calendar Construction Toy

Kids Advent CalendarsCelebrate christmas with this LEGO city advent calendar 2018. The set includes five LEGO minifigures (including Santa) and a husky dog figure. Features 24 different buildable gifts including vehicles, seasonal items and more. Open a door each day to reveal the day’s present and collect all minifigures to add to your building sets. Celebrate the spirit of the season in LEGO city with the newest, fun advent calendar.


Gemstone Geological Advent Calendar

Kids Advent Calendars

A unique and original Advent Calendar with a difference. Our Gemstone Geology Advent Calendar introduces a new gemstone every day – educational and fun. An alternative advent calendar. The personalised box is full of 24 individually packaged and numbered gemstones and fossils, all with an information card. One to open for each day of advent. There is also a drawstring cloth bag to keep the contents in once opened.


Pins And Patches Kids Advent Calendars Christmas Stocking

Kids Advent Calendars

This Pins And Patches Advent Calendar is something completely new. It is a ‘treat’ calendar, but one which doesn’t contain anything edible.

This badge and iron-on embroidered patch calendar is full of daily fun (all the badges and patches come on a backing card with a fun fact or joke), and on opening each day the contents can be used to create something original and useful.


Disney Christmas Advent Book

Kids Advent CalendarsIf you are looking for something a bit different than chocolate to countdown to Christmas this year, then this Disney Christmas Advent Book is perfect! Great value and fun, this lovely advent gift features 24 different mini-books from the Disney storybook collection in a cased wallet. Great for children aged between 6-10 years, this will be sure to give them hours of fun this Christmas!


‘Christmas Reindeer Balloon Kids Advent Calendars

Kids Advent Calendars

A fun and unique balloon advent calendar, the perfect way to count down to the big day! The advent calendar is made up of 24 5-inch balloons each pre-stuffed with a Christmas chocolate. The kit includes the gold cord, 24 red mini balloons pre-stuffed with Christmas chocolate and 24 gorgeous red nosed reindeer’s ready to be inflated to create this unique Christmas Advent Calendar with.


Mouttop Kids Advent Calendars ,24 Charms DIY Necklace Bracelet 

Kids Advent CalendarsEach day has a number and when you open it, there are have 24 pcs differnt charm for the charm bracelet & Necklace. Great advent calendar for adults or kids advent calendar. A fun Christmas countdown calendar. When you wear it, it promotes beauty, health, good luck, and healing. It is a great gift for your best friend, significant other, or anyone who enjoys handmade fine jewelry.


Christmas Gingerbread House Kids Advent Calendars

Kids Advent Calendars

A large 3D gingerbread house advent calendar with 24 cubby holes to fill with treats for the christmas countdown. This large wooden gingerbread house is painted in traditional reds and greens with a sparkling snow trim. It is decorated with lots of fun sweetie detailing from candy canes to sprinkles and gobstoppers on the roof.


The Colour In Christmas Kids Advent Calendars

Kids Advent Calendars

Open the door to days of crafty Christmas fun, with this colour-in advent calendar with a difference. Inspire a crafty Christmas! Children will love the visual representation of this advent calendar.  With each day of advent the calendar fills with colour and adds to the excitement of ‘how many more sleeps there is to go’! Choose the personalised option, making this advent extra special and a keepsake memory for years to come.


Joe & Seph’s Popcorn Advent Calendar 2018 (Contains 24 x 5g bags of popcorn)

Kids Advent CalendarsA giant book advent calender filled with 24 bags of 12 different Joe & Seph’s customer favourite flavours. The advent calender is designed as the Joe & Seph’s popcorn shop, open the shop to see the jars of popcorn with 24 windows each revealing it’s own secret flavour.

 

 


Christmas Activity Kids Advent Calendars

Kids Advent Calendars

A set of 24 Advent Activity Cards. A fun pack of high quality cards for toddlers and children to celebrate the countdown to Christmas. This unique set of cards is a lovely way to prepare for Christmas in a fun and thoughtful way. Each card states an activity for your child to do that day.


Advent Candle

Kids Advent CalendarsA grown-up version of the traditional advent calendar – the advent candle is lit every day on the run up to Christmas and burnt down to the following date. A lovely tradition for those chilly winter evenings spent in front of the fire. Small red glass Candle holder also available.


VTech Toot-Toot Animals Kids Advent Calendars – Multi-Coloured

Kids Advent CalendarsCountdown to Christmas with the fabulous Toot-Toot Animals advent calendar. 24 fun play pieces including a cute Toot-Toot Animals Reindeer and baby, Christmas decorations and more. Reindeer includes 3 Christmas songs, 6 festive melodies and lots of fun sound effects. Reindeer responds to SmartPoint locations with different phrases, sound effects and more on all Toot-Toot Animals play sets.


Crayola Christmas Kids Advent Calendars Kit

Kids Advent CalendarsKeep kids creatively engaged as they wait for Santa with the Crayola Christmas countdown activity advent calendar. This kit includes a 24-day calendar of surprises that offers a daily dose of creativity for every day of the holiday season. Packed with craft projects, homemade gifts, finger puppets, and coloring activities, this set helps kids get into the spirit of Christmas and provides a positive outlet for their yuletide excitement.


24 Pack Item with Kids Advent Calendars 2018 Geocaching

Kids Advent CalendarsContains 24 geocaching parts) + 24 bags and 24 number stickers

 

 

And finally… I couldn’t leave this one out!

Multicultural Book Kids Advent Calendars: Books for STRONG Girls

Kids Advent CalendarsFirst of all, If you haven’t done a Book Advent before, you have one book for each day of your countdown to the holiday of your choice. You can buy the books, check them out from your local library, or simply incorporate book titles already in your home library. If you want to add an element of surprise, wrap and date each book and let your child(ren) open one each day. These books are also critical for raising boys who believe in gender equality. Teachers and parents: we need to be explicitly teaching gender equality through reading aloud and the books we share with boys and girls. Every child needs to see everyday female role models, as well as on TV/movies. By doing this, we teach tolerance and empathy, while breaking down harmful stereotypes. This multicultural book advent list below is appropriate for ages 0-10.


50 Acts of Kindness by Kids for Advent

Kids advent calendarsFinally, this year I want to incorporate more of the giving part of Christmas than the receiving.  I found this list of 50 acts of kindness for kids at advent on pinterest which is great. It includes ideas like: bake  goodies and give them to your neighbours; write a letter telling your brother/ sister how much you love them and; make a christmas card for your teacher. I intend to add a few of my own and make it personal to my child(ren).

Happy making and buying and do share some of your own ideas for your kids’ Christmas countdown this year!

“Mummy, I hate my sticky-out bum”: Teaching Our Girls a Healthy Body Image

Teaching a Healthy Body Image to our Girls

“Mummy, I hate my sticky-out bum!” Those words were uttered by my oldest daughter followed by floods of tears on her way home from school. “Why can’t I have a ‘flat’ bum Mama?”, she asked through sobs.

I can’t tell you how much pain I felt in that moment. My daughter is four years old.

Teaching our Mixed Girls a Healthy Body Image

I mean, I knew it was coming. I have three daughters. Indeed, body image and consciousness sort of go with the territory. But I expected it later, much later- when we’ve put in the groundwork.  When she knows that yes, she may be curvy and more shapely than the stick thin models she sees in magazines and online, AND she is beautiful.

In that moment, I panicked. I didn’t know what to do. You see, to a 4 year old, most 4 year old girls, their most important role model is their mother.  It’s why my little one tries to play house and mama to her babies and tell off her sister, and plays kitchen and… the list goes on. Her mama who has ‘vanilla’ skin, a ‘flat’ bum (much to my dismay), and straight hair. In other words, I look nothing like her.

I thought about the millions of pounds men and women spend on bronzing their skin, on adding volume and curls to their hair and, more recently, to inserting bum implants to achieve the curvaceous figures sported by the likes of Beyonce, J-Lo and Shakira.

But I couldn’t really say all that. Talk about too much information.

I just had to hold her. And validate her. And tell her over and over how beautiful she is. All in the middle of the street as I promised to buy her a new P.E. kit that wouldn’t accentuate her derriere.

A friend of mine pointed out angrily, why do we even engage? Should it matter? Because when we do, we’re just reinforcing the point to our daughters that looks matter. Why are we talking about their beauty and how they look at such a young age. Her boys never look in the mirror and strike a pose or ask, ‘how do I look Mama?’ So why do mine?

I stopped engaging in the nature vs. nurture debate a long time ago, beaten as it were by nature. I was a tomboy and wanted my first born, whatever the gender to follow in my footsteps and love sports- most of all, football. As God would have it, I have the most girly girl daughter you could have. From a very young age, she was choosing pink, asking for princess dress up outfits, posing in her tiara and insisting on wearing high heels. Whether or not she was pre-destined to be like that I can’t answer but I can say that I did fight it tooth and nail.

My Suzy Q will never have a flat bum. I don’t think she’ll take after her Dad and have a stick thin figure either. But she needs to know that she is beautiful. She absolutely has to. I will never forgive the magazine and advertising industry for letting my daughter doubt her sense of self so early on in her little life. (I have to admit, I unashamedly resorted to showing her pictures of Beyonce and Shakira in poses from behind).

But I know now, I have my work cut out. I can never slack. Exposing her to as many amazing strong black female role models that look like her is important. Not just because she’s a girl but because she’s black and mixed and deserves much more than the world has shown her at 4.

At at time when parents are spending more time than ever with their children, if you were ever in doubt, here’s the reason why we need to be there for our daughters at every moment, no matter how old they are.

If you’re looking for resources or books that reinforce a healthy body image for your sons or daughters, check out these books: