Thank You: Expressing gratitude – through a minimal phrase like “thank you” helps children understand that someone else provided for them in some way and therefore must be acknowledged. Each time a child says thank you for a trivial thing (someone passing him something at the table or helping him reach an object that is high up), he is recognizing the effort other people make in order to better his life.
Family dinner is a great time to reinforce these simple manners. Because food requires a bracha before and after, eating is a wonderful opportunity to teach children the idea of gratitude. Once they have said their brachos, talk to them about something during their day that they are grateful for. Share something you are grateful for, but be sure to avoid possessions. Instead, choose an event or a person that brightened your day. Of course, this need not be a daily event, but instilling gratitude in your children will do wonders towards cutting back on their sense of entitlement and privilege.
Involve Your Family in Chesed
Even if a child is too young or immature to have empathy, or the ability to place himself within another person’s shoes, he can still feel sorry for other people and appreciate what he has. To that end, getting your whole family involved in chesed projects that help those less fortunate is a win-win situation.
Hands on chesed is generally more effective than having your child give tzeddakah because often your child will have only a vague idea of how money will benefit others. There are many options that you can consider when looking for a worthy chesed: there are soup kitchens, literacy programs, and food drives. Doing community service not only helps children gain perspective and empathy, it can also open their horizons and instill problem-solving skills.
One thing to take into account is that when it comes to counting blessing, or feeling grateful, doing chesed one day is not going to have a lasting effect. Rather, create a routine, such as once a week on Friday delivering challahs to the elderly in your neighborhood. Incorporating a charitable routine will ensure that thinking of others becomes a part of your child’s mind-set. It will establish a set of values and construct a solid base for future experiences.