How to Teach Your Child Gratitude

How to Teach Your Child Gratitude with Rice and Beans

Do you struggle with teaching your child gratitude? I did, too. I found myself saying “You have no idea how fortunate you are,” on repeat. No matter how many times I made that statement, it didn’t seem to make a difference.

I’ve discovered a sure-fire way to teach my kids to be thankful, and I want to share it with you. All you have to do is serve rice and beans for dinner.

That’s right.

Something as simple as rice and beans. Let me explain…

We have made a family commitment to eat rice and beans for supper one night a month.

It’s great for the budget. They are easy ingredients to find and maintain in the pantry without them spoiling. They provide excellent health benefits.

In my opinion, all of those facts are great reasons to eat rice and beans, but not our original purpose.

Our hope is to help our kids to be thankful for the things they have in their life, and open their eyes to the realities that kids (and adults) throughout the world are facing on a daily basis.

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Getting Started with Teaching Gratitude

I first saw this idea years ago on Facebook. A mom eating rice and beans on the floor with her kids. I’m not sure who she was but because that family shared that intimate moment, our family has been affected in a positive way.

It stuck with me. Especially on days when our boys aren’t pleased with our grocery options. I talked with my husband and we decided we wanted to put this in place and expand on it a little more.

This is what our rice and beans night looks like:

We had black beans and brown rice from Aldi in our pantry so that is what we used.

You can also find them on Amazon and save a little pocket change by buying in bulk:

We always have a “supper helper.” The first time we did a rice and beans dinner, our helper happened to be our 8 year old.

He enjoys rice and he enjoys beans but he was curious whether we would be having anything else with it. Apples? Grapes? Meat? We explained that was all we were having. He did a great job helping to prepare the rice and beans which we did on the stove top.

When it came time to set the table, my husband pushed our table to the side and layed a sheet out on the floor. My son was extremely confused.

“Why aren’t we using our table and chairs? Why are we sitting on the floor?” Lots of questions. He went to grab the coconut aminos and ranch (some of our favorites with rice) but we told him we weren’t going to need anything but salt and pepper tonight. 

On the sheet we had our rice, beans, salt, pepper, bowls, spoons, a candle, water, and napkins.

That was it.

Lights were off. We still had some daylight so it wasn’t too dark for our dinner.

The “Meat” of This Meal

We had looked up statistics about world hunger and wrote them on notecards. Each of our boys had a card they shared with the family during our dinner time.

>>Tap if you’d like a printable version of these stats to help teach your kids gratitude.

The stats blew me away. They brought tears to my eyes. I know several kids (and adults) struggle to find food on a daily basis but it broke me into pieces to think about how it must feel to not be able to feed your kids a meal.

To not meet that basic need to survive.

To say, “this is what we have for today” or “hopefully we can find something to eat tomorrow.” 

According to World Vision, “1 in 7 people will go to bed hungry tonight.”
https://www.worldvision.org/blog/national-hunger-awareness-month-hunger-fast-facts

And here our kids were complaining earlier (after we already had our meal planned out) that they just didn’t have enough good snacks in our house. Ice cream just wasn’t exciting anymore. 

Once we had our meal all prepared and the floor set up, we prayed for our meal. Everyone shared the research from their notecard.

The boys were pretty quiet when they read their card. I don’t know that they ever really sat and intentionally thought about people dying from not having enough food to eat.

They all scooped their rice and beans into their bowls and topped it off with salt and pepper. No ranch tonight. No coconut aminos. They ate their dinner pretty quietly. All of them seemed thankful. 

We also told them we weren’t going to put our dishes in the dishwasher, but rather heat up our water on the stove and wash our dishes by hand.

I know.

It’s not a big deal.

To them, it was very different. Our “supper clean up helper” got pretty quiet. He was not appreciating this learning opportunity initially, but we carried on.

We each washed our individual dinner dishes with the warm water we had heated on the stove, rinsed them, and set them to dry. Our supper helper washed our serving bowls and pots and lids. 

After Dinner Conversation

I was curious to hear what our kids were thinking — praying this would be an opportunity to help them see there is a lot more going on in the world than what was taking place inside the four walls of our home.

We didn’t want them to feel bad, but we did want them to FEEL. To have an appreciation for what we have in our refrigerator, pantry, and deep freezer. 

After we returned from a walk, our son thanked us for that experience. He was a little concerned what supper clean up was going to look like but after surviving it, I feel like he was able to take in the dinner and it made him think a little. 

Another son said this about our rice and beans dinner on the floor:

“It felt weird at first. Then, I realized a lot of people actually do this. They don’t know anything else. I realized I shouldn’t take everything for granted because of how much that I have.”

The next night, this same son prayed for dinner and he thanked God for our table and chairs. Something I don’t think we have ever really thought about before.

Final Thoughts on Teaching Our Kids Gratitude

I’m not sharing this post to say we have it all together.  We have a lot to learn. Rather, this was something simple and eye opening that we felt we could do to make our boys think a little more about what they have.

I feel like teaching appreciation and empathy is really hard for this generation. Maybe it’s not for you and your family, but it feels like a daily effort over here. 

Parenting often feels like hit or miss. Does anybody ever feel like they are doing it well? So often, we don’t see the benefits of our investments until much later in their little lives.

Like I said, we aren’t changing the world by sitting on the floor to eat our rice and beans in the dark. But, hopefully, we are opening three pairs of eyes to a little more gratitude. 

What ideas do you have for us to intentionally teach our boys about gratitude and appreciation? Send them all my way!

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How to Teach Your Child Gratitude with Rice and Beans

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