The Power of Appreciation

Teaching our kids to show love, gratitude and appreciation.

Lizanne du Plessis blog

I hear the clatter of a tea cup and the toast popping. I’m writing this post from my bed where I was summoned to stay.  It’s Mother’s Day! I take a deep breath. Am I really a mother? Some days I have to stop and remind myself that I’m not 20 anymore. I can sort of comprehend the fact that I’m the daughter of an admirable mom and the daughter-in-law of a wonderful mom-in-law, but the fact that I’m the mom of two gorgeous girls are sometimes too much to grasp.

Work commitments and the mere distance of living wide-spread over South Africa will keep us, two generations of moms, from spending the day together. I wasn’t organised enough to organise flowers for my two moms in advance, so it got me thinking – how did children honour their moms in the days before Mother’s Day became this over-commercialized day?

Mother’s Day as we know it was first celebrated in 1908. Anna Jarvis was the driving force behind the day. Her mission was to honour her own mother, who was a peace activists and cared for wounded soldiers on both sides of the Civil War. Anna’s intention for the founding of Mother’s Day was for children to appreciate and honour their mothers by writing a personal letter, by hand, expressing love and gratitude. Anna became resentful of the commercialization of Mother’s Day, she even protested and was even arrested.

The roots of this day, lies in a girl who wanted to honour her mum.

I don’t think that behaviour like showing love, gratitude and appreciation comes naturally to kids or to us as adults. We have to learn how to do it, practise and then work at it. But there’s a catch. Each of us experience love, gratitude and appreciation in our own unique ways. My love language is not gifts, so I find it really hard to even come up with ideas of gifts for those that I’d like to honour. Spending quality time with me or simply just telling me that you appreciate what I do, is what makes me feel loved and appreciated. And that is the way that I often show my love and appreciation to those around me.

Since, showing appreciation and love doesn’t come naturally, perhaps we need to think of ways to teach our kids to show love, gratitude and appreciation.

It all starts with “t’s” and “p’s”.  Start early and teach them to say “Please” before each request and “Thank you” afterwards. When your baby is young and not able to verbalise the words yet, teach them to use hand signs. These two signs were some of the ones that I requested most frequently from my babies. Later on, my husband and I used the signs to remind our kids that only once we’ve heard their “p’s” and “t’s” will we respond.

Practise what you preach. Our kids learn best by what they see us do, rather than by what they hear us say.  So practice showing appreciation to them. A wonderful tool is the book: The 5 Love Languages of Children by Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell. It will really change the way that you practise showing love and appreciation as well as perceive the love and appreciation from your love ones.

Some ideas that include all 5 love languages are:

Give lots of hugs, cuddles and kisses. Play rough-and-tumble games (Keep an eye out for my ideas on how you can rough-and-tumble with your kids). This works well especially for the touchy-feely ones amongst us.

Give words of affirmation describing your appreciation and love. “I am so proud of you for doing your laces all by yourself.” “Thank you for helping me to tidy your room. You are a star!” “I am proud of you sharing your special toy. Look how happy your sister looks now.” “I am so glad that you are my child. I would not choose anybody else. Even if I had the choice.”

Give time. Spending quality time works with kids. It might mean some time on the floor playing with their toy trucks or lego. Or pushing them hundred times on the swing. Nothing too structured. Merely joining them in their play. In their world.

Give gifts. This is not about over-indulging our kids. This is about writing a special note and attaching it to their favourite chocolate. This is about giving them that cheap toy from the motivational jar just because you love them, not because they got 5 stars and deserved it.

Serve. “But is that not what I do every day for my kids anyway”, some of you might ask. I agree, some days I feel that’s all I do! Serve, serve, serve! But this kind of serving is different. It is those things that we do for our kids, which they can either do for themselves, or those that they don’t particularly like doing. You might decide to pack their school bag for the next day, help them put their shoes on, do the dishes, help them to complete their colouring homework. You tell them that you’re helping them because you love them. I can cook dinner, there’s no reason why I can’t, but boy o boy, I feel so appreciated and loved when a friend drops off a home make dinner. Or when my husband offers to take the kids to school. It is when those who love us, goes out of their way to help us. That’s when we feel the love. At least for some of us this is our love language.

Over to you:

When do you feel loved and appreciated?

(Photography: Louise Viljoen


Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Louise Viljoen

    Hi Lizanne, nothing beats a “you’re the best mom ever!” coming from my 4-year old!! Thank you for giving us great, practical tips!