Gratitude is defined as the quality of being thankful. Many experts tell us that being grateful can give us higher levels of overall happiness in our lives. We all want to level up our happiness in this world and we should be teaching our children this skill as well. As parents, we are very good about teaching and encouraging our children to say thank you to others because it is important to make others feel appreciated and happy and it’s just good manners. But did you know there are huge benefits that come from expressing gratitude to both the giver and receiver? This is the reason we need to be very intentional about teaching our children why it is so important to express and show gratitude to others.
Teaching a child to express gratitude can be one of the more challenging parts of parenthood. The concept of gratitude is very abstract. When you think about a young child, their worldview can tend to center around themselves. Teaching and modeling gratitude for your child is so important as they grow up. You are setting them up to be less entitled, more empathetic and mentlly healthy. Not to mention less stressed and happier people. Gratitude studies show that there are so many benefits to practicing it everyday. Increased sleep, better moods, fewer health problems, more resilience, increased ability to cope with stressors and overall happiness.
Those are some amazing benefits to being grateful, but can you teach this to your children? I think being realistic about it is a great start. Children under the age of 6 may have a harder time expressing gratitude but by the time they are about 10 years old they really have a good grasp of the concept. We want to start modeling this behavior as soon as possible though because even if they are unable to express gratitude all the time they are still taking it in. As they get a little older, they can really understand the concept of empathy which is closely linked to gratitude. When you can really understand another person’s perspective it helps you understand their actions and gives you a clear lens to see what they are doing as kind or generous.
I know if you are still with me at this point in the article you are all in. Those benefits are too good to pass up on. So now you’re wondering how to teach gratitude to your children? I’m here to give you some tips for doing just that.
Practice gratitude daily with your children
Tonight, recall with your family all of the moments that you are thankful for today. Be intentional about this practice. Model this skill for them. You could do this when you eat dinner or before they go to bed. Ask them what was their favorite part of the day? Then ask them why they are thankful for that part. You can point out the more common things in life and model this behavior of being grateful for even the smallest of moments. You can make this an easy three step process. Ask them what they are thankful for and then ask why they are thankful. Lastly follow up with what behaviors can you repeat to make this happen again? Doing this daily will create routine and encourage this to be a lifelong behavior for them.
Let them be part of donating to your community – This practice teaches your children that there are others who may be less fortunate than them. This will show them even more reasons to be thankful for what they have and to incorporate the practice of giving to others who may be in need. You can help them to go through their toys and donate some things to others. This has many benefits because you are teaching them to be generous, letting go of things and giving back all at the same time. So many skills to be learned in this one simple practice. With older kids you can let them be part of deciding where to donate and teach what community agencies do in your area.
This is an easy one. There are so many opportunities to help people in our community. Be intentional about this one and age appropriate. You can help an elderly neighbor with a house project. You can help them to find local causes that they care about and figure out how to be part of them. They could have special skills and talents that can be utilized and build their self esteem in the process. No matter how you help others, this will increase your gratitude and appreciation of being in a place that you can help someone else.
This is a great one and easy for everyone to do. You can have a jar in your house and whenever someone feels grateful about a certain moment, they write it on a piece of paper and drop it in there. You can have special times set aside to read all of the comments as a family. When you do this practice you are creating a culture of gratitude in your home. This will end up being such a special time to come together, connect and appreciate each other. It’s a wonderful way to put statements in there about the small things in life too that we all sometimes take for granted.
Random Acts of Kindness
I cannot say enough good things about this one. I have done this with my own child on many occasions and I can now see it in her as a young adult. She does random acts of kindness for other people and just unexpected things for her family and friends. When you do something unexpectedly nice for a stranger, you are more likely to do these things for the people you care about. This one is so easy because it can be as simple as giving someone a sincere compliment, paying for the person’s food behind you in a drive thru or leaving a really nice thank you note for someone who helped you out in a special way. The benefits of this one will continue to deepen and have lasting effects for you and the receiver.
This is one that anyone can do. Take your children on a walk and talk about what they see, smell, hear and notice during this time. Then discuss what are their favorite parts of the walk. Be mindful about noticing all the small things on your walk. Use this time to ask them what they are grateful for during the walk. Is it the smell of the flowers, the warmth of the sun or seeing a bunch of adorable puppies and kittens in their neighborhood? This can become an amazing habit and well spent quality time together.
Model, Demonstrate and Show
If you have read my articles before you know I am a big proponent of modeling what you wish to see in your children. This one seems easy but we often overlook the importance of demonstrating this skill. Show them gratitude. Model gratitude every single day for them and for you. Demonstrate being kind to others and doing nice things for no reason. Show them how grateful you are for your home, your friends and family and all the opportunities that life affords to you.