Teaching gratitude to tots

Annie Lane

Dear Annie: Many of the letters to you complain of ungrateful children and adults who don't send thank-you's, don't call, or who are otherwise ungrateful. Too often, children (aka future adults) are taught to be takers, not givers, so they don't build habits of giving, giving back, or sending replies. Let's change that. Starting early, let's teach children to feel joy as givers themselves. Teach youngsters to pack up a few of their too-small, but clean clothes, outgrown or neglected toys, already-completed puzzles, etc., and let them hand them go with you to drop them off at a local donation center or shelter in need. Designate a box for donations to always have somewhere in your house. When they receive a gift, help them write a thank you, help a tot to include inside a thank you a smiling face picture they have drawn.

With grown kids, children or grandchildren, especially if they never or seldom reply, or if they just have a surfeit of "things," tell them you have sent a check to a charity in their name. They may then think to do the same. Take this as a lifetime project, and don't limit your own giving to family, etc., but reach out to the world, after a flood or fire or refugee situation. Include something in your seasonal letter about your joy in giving to some worthwhile organization (but check with Charity Navigator for the reliability of the charity, especially with money gifts).

There are a great many needs near home or across the world. Let you be a giver! And encourage children, and others in your family and beyond, to do the same. – Dick Nelson, Retired Counselor Educator

Dear Dick: Fantastic advice that, if followed on a mass scale, would help create a more generous world. Thanks for writing.

Dear Annie: I'm sure your inbox gets flooded this time of year about problem relatives and holiday dinners. My 35-year-old nephew, "Nick," has been separated from his wife, "Nora," for the past three years. They have five children under the age of 7. Nick, Nora and the kids all come to Thanksgiving dinner, and the children act like wild banshees the whole time. Nick and Nora sit at separate tables and ignore one another and their children. I don't think they have ever said "no" to these children. Nick just sits at the table, staring, like a deer caught in the headlights.

Other members of the family bring their young children, and those children are well-behaved. I've never had children or been around them so I'm already starting at an uncomfortable place. I need a tranquilizer after Thanksgiving dinner. It's my youngest brother and his wife, "Rose," who host the dinner, as they are the only ones with a big enough house. I confided in my Rose that it would be a much more peaceful celebration if they didn't invite Nick, Nora and their kids this year. Rose agreed but said that wasn't being a good Christian to not invite them. I told her that when Jesus said to turn the other cheek, he didn't say, "Let the person slap the heck out of you." Rose said, "What if Nora invites herself?" I answered it was all about what she wanted, and I wouldn't say anything else about it. What do you think? – Fed Up with Thanksgiving Madness

Dear Fed Up: Rose's house, Rose's guest list. I suggest you take up meditation or another calming practice between now and then and engage in said calming activity before heading to her house on Thanksgiving. If and when the noise gets to be too much, take your leave, and be grateful you only have to be in the middle of the hullabaloo for a few hours every year versus 24 hours a day.

Send your questions for Annie Lane to dearannie@creators.com.