How to Instill Gratitude in Children
As parents or caregivers, we often wonder how to instill gratitude in children, or often think about how we can teach them to be grateful. I remember when I was a child, in order to instill gratitude in me, my parents used to start off with a common phrase “What do you say” whenever I was given something!
Similarly, as soon as my kids were able to learn baby signs, I taught them how to say “thank you”, among the other polite manners and kind words like “please” and “sorry”. We know that gratitude is an attitude of deep thankfulness and appreciation for the benefits and kindness we perceive ourselves as receiving.
I believe as parents, it’s our duty to communicate this meaning and instill gratitude in children by teaching them how to be grateful even for presents received on birthdays or special occasions like Christmas or Thanksgiving. It has been important for me to explain to my children the meaning of the gift, alongside the intention and love with which it was given, not its value or size.
“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow. “~ Melody Beattie
If you are wondering how to instill gratitude in children, you need to first begin with a decision, followed by regular, concrete lessons that should be included in the daily activities of your family.
Here are some of the best ways to instill gratitude in children:
1- Be role models and express gratitude regularly
When kids see you expressing thanks or gratitude, they will do the same. As parents, you need to model respect, politeness, and gratitude to encourage those qualities in kids.
It’s not enough to simply say “thank you” when required, instead make it a point to explain to your children what you are grateful for. Remember to express gratitude to all those people who help you, like the waitress who delivers you food, shopkeeper, or the helpers near your home and the kids will just pick it up from you.
2- List and count your blessings
Make it a point to have a few minutes of expressing thanks in the morning or while dinnertime. Let your kids join you to name a few things that you are grateful for, list them, make a small note of them, or maintain a journal about them that can filled by older children before going to bed.
Small things matter, so whether it’s a hug from your Grandma, a good grade at school, a gift from a friend, a favorite toy, such a practice leaves a positive impact on your children.
3- Keep things in moderation
Showering children with too many materialistic things reduces the gratitude impulse. So, don’t go overboard while buying them the best, instead do it in moderations so that they learn to value, respect, and remain grateful for those things.
Sometimes, have a family project involving going without something important, like making homemade bread and not buying it from the market, or foregoing a movie and saving up to gift a needy child. Such sacrifices make us miss things that we often take for granted, and help us become more grateful and humble when the things are reinstated.
It would help them value and be grateful for things if you make them pitch in if they want something. Don’t be the sole provider; instead if they receive a monthly allowance, pocket money, or are earning, ask them to save up for the things they want themselves.
Children would love to be active contributors and will work hard towards what they want. These are some things I practice and I know it worked wonders with my kids!
4- Use thank-you cards
One way to instill gratitude in children is by insisting that they use thank-you cards often. Whenever they receive gifts, or when they want to thank their teachers at the end of the year, or for any other small thing, ensure that they send out thank-you notes.
Also insist that they compose and hand-write the card themselves, as this instills a personal bonding with the card being sent. However, remember that you as parents need to set the example by sending out formal thank-you notes on a variety of occasions, as children learn it best from you.
My mom was very particular about us making the cards ourselves, and we as kids used to love decorating the cards and sending them out. My kids used to do the same till a few years back, though I insist they continue doing even now, at least for special occasions!
5- Help others and give back
Another great way to instill gratitude in children is by telling them how most other children in the world don’t even have a little of what they have- like toys, clothing, or food. Thus, they must be grateful for what they have and learn to value those things. I think most of our parents have told us this so often.
When kids reach an appropriate age, explain them about the challenges, illness, or natural disasters others may be facing. Empower kids by teaching them various ways they can help like by donating things they have outgrown, writing a letter, giving small gift bags with things to hospitalized children, or volunteering at a nursing home for a few hours.
Remember, when children give their energy and time to help others, they are less likely to take things like family, home, and health for granted, and such selfless service reduces selfishness in all of us adults as well.
6- Remain a grateful parent
Tell your children how thankful you are to have them and do it often, as the way you treat your kids affects their growth much more than the rules you set. When your kids do things right, praise them with gratitude. Praise and appreciation was in abundance for me as a child, and this is something I try giving to my kids as well.
We as parents of course love our kids, are thankful for their love, hugs, smiles, and smallest of deeds. But when you tell them these things, their self-esteem boosts up, and such examples teach them that gratitude goes well beyond materialistic things.
Studies indicate that encouraging gratitude can increase the levels of happiness by nearly 25 percent, and may even be the cause for people to live more satisfied, happier lives, and enjoy higher levels of hope, empathy, self-esteem, and optimism.
So, with Thanksgiving round the corner, November is a great month to work on ways to foster the concepts of giving and instill gratitude in children. And be patient with your children, as each one of them has their own needs, fears, wants, and personalities. Remember, by teaching your children gratitude it will be something that they will always thank you for in the long run.
“How wonderful it would be if we could help our children and grandchildren to learn thanksgiving at an early age. Thanksgiving opens the doors. It changes a child’s personality. A child is resentful, negative—or thankful. Thankful children want to give, they radiate happiness, and they draw people.” ~ Sir John Templeton
Gratitude is more than an attitude, more than polite manners and positive thinking. It is a way of life and a magnificent legacy to leave our children. So, don’t think about how to instill gratitude in children, instead start taking these steps to instill this significant attitude in your family today, for a better tomorrow. J
How did you instill gratitude in children? Did you face any problems while instilling gratitude in your kids? Share in the comments below.
Photo Credit: Vasile Tomoiagă