Sometimes little people need a visual to help them grasp abstract subjects. When tackling subjects like attitude, gratitude, giving, and forgiving, it can be difficult to translate explanations into concrete language a child can understand. Here are some ideas on taking the abstract into the concrete:
Blessings Jar Ideas
1.) Attitude issues~Cut out some pictures from magazines of things representing your child’s blessings (pets, friends, family, home, food, the park, etc) and keep them in the Blessings Jar. When your little one is having problems appreciating their blessings, let them dig around in the Blessings Jar and find three blessings to share with you. Bonus: Modeling good life habits such as focusing on the positives in life and remembering to share our gratitude for the good things in life with the source of those good things!
2.) Sibling and/or cooperation issues~Next to the Blessings Jar, keep a small bowl with game pieces such as Operation or Perfection or some other game with lots of pieces. Let your children know that every time you see them cooperating with each other (sibling issues) or with you (cooperation issues) they’ll get to put a game piece in the Blessings Jar, and when all the pieces are in the jar you will all play the game together as a family. When you play the game, talk about how difficult it would be to enjoy the game if any of the pieces were missing and how it’s the same way with family…everyone matters and working together makes the ‘game’ more fun for everyone! Note: The novelty wears off quickly if used to control behavior (i.e. as a reward system) instead of as an occassional object lesson or fun family activity.
[Sometimes us parents are the ones in need of an attitude adjustment! Here are some ideas on shifting gears when our little blessings begin to feel more like huge burdens.]
1.) Keep a bowl of little glass jewels like you’d find at a craft store next to the Blessings Jar and every time you ‘catch’ your child doing something kind or thoughtful, let them put a jewel in the Blessings Jar. (Make sure you ‘catch’ them often!) At the end of the day, count the blessings with your little one and sing the ‘Count Your Blessings’ song as part of your bedtime routine.
2.) If you’re feeling overwhelmed with life in general and parenting in particular, use the Blessings Jar to help you refocus on your own blessings. Keep a little notepad next to the Blessings Jar and write down one of your blessings every time you feel like you’re about to lose it. At the end of the day, pull out the blessings and share them with the whole family and write down any they’d like to add, then pray together as a family and thank God for all of your blessings. (Keeping these and pulling them out at the end of the year to make a Blessings Yearbook/Scrapbook would be a fun family tradition, too!)
Uh-Oh Jar Ideas
1.) Teaching children about forgiveness can be a challenge, especially when parents often feel the need to punish them for every mistake or bad choice they make. Giving our children the grace and forgiveness we’ve been given is the first and most vital step in teaching forgiveness. To reinforce that lesson, put a bowl of blank scraps of paper next to an Uh-Oh Jar. Every time your little one misbehaves, lies, etc, write what they did on one of the scraps and ask them to ball up the paper and put it in the Uh-Oh Jar. At the end of the day, ask them if they know what forgiveness is. After letting them try to answer, remind them that all day long they’ve been putting papers with their mistakes written on them in the Uh-Oh Jar. Then, one by one, pull out the papers, unfold them, erase the writing, and throw them away. Tell them that forgiveness is erasing someone’s mistakes and letting it go just like you erased their mistakes and threw the papers away!
2.) Another use for an Uh-Oh Jar is to fill it with scraps of paper with good choices written on them. (i.e. Play with playdoh. Color a picture. Build a block city. etc) When your little ones are are getting into things, fighting, and just generally making ’uh-oh’ choices, let them pick a good choice from the Uh-Oh Jar to redirect them.
L.R.Knost is a best-selling parenting and children’s book author and founder and director of Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, an online resource for gentle parenting education, articles, and research. Books by L.R.Knost include Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood , Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages , and The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline the first three books in the Little Hearts Handbook gentle parenting series, as well as her children’s picture books Petey’s Listening Ears and the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins series available from Amazon and other major retailers.