How Can We Teach Our Children to be Grateful?
How can we teach our children to be grateful? Many of us struggle to teach gratitude to our children. This blog post offers strategies for teaching gratitude at any age and stage. Not to worry, most of the strategies take very little time to do and in return, will add so much to your days. The most important thing is to start with one of the habits today, to create an attitude of gratitude for everyone in the family.
How Early Can We Start?
Until our kids can speak, it’s up to us to use words of gratitude with them and model the behavior. Simple strategies would include teaching them to sign thank-you and helping them to understand when to say it. We can also express our gratitude to them directly. ‘I’m so grateful that you are my child,’ for example. Another fun idea would be to start a gratitude journal for your child. By writing down a few things every day that you are grateful for about them, it would also serve as a journal of their growth.
When our kids are comfortable using language, we can start to teach them how to say please and thank-you. It’s also a great time to teach them how to receive a compliment. Every notice how most kids are uncomfortable when given a compliment? Share with them that a compliment is a gift and it’s important to accept it by saying thank-you. As parents, this is also a behavior that can be hard to model. We often brush off compliments or reply with ‘oh, it’s nothing,’ rather than accepting them.
Having a Daily Gratitude Practice
This is also a great age to start a daily gratitude practice before bed. Ask them to share one thing in their day that they are grateful for, out loud. They may say the same thing every day, so encourage them to think of something different every day. We did this with our daughter as a part of her bedtime routine from about the age of 3.
As our kids get older and begin to write, there are few ways to record daily gratitude. When our daughter was 5, she was just learning to write. We used the pages from a Page-A-Day Calendar and wrote her daily gratitude on the back. We folded it and placed it into a Gratitude Jar (a large flower vase) and ended up filling three of them in the space of 12 months. At first, we wrote most of it for her and she would just write one or two words. By the time we got to the end of the year, she was writing them all by herself.
The other advantage of this is that it gives children a reason to write every day. When they are young and just learning to write, daily practice is essential, especially over the summer. By doing this practice with her that summer, she had confidence in her writing at the start of grade one.
Create a Gratitude Board
At the end of the year, what do we do with all of these pieces of paper? I had suggested burning them in the fireplace, but she had a better idea. We created a gratitude board, with at least one or two pages from each month of the year. We framed it and it’s hanging in her room. Truth be told, this part of the project did take several hours, but it was really worth it.
Advancing to a Gratitude Journal
Once our kids are comfortable writing one or two sentences, a gratitude journal is a great next step. This can be started at any age, so if you’ve got a teenager who could use a little bit of perspective, I highly recommend it. Take them shopping to find a journal they like, and buy a few different colored pens too. Keep the journal by their bedside and make it a part of their bedtime routine. For an older child, work with them for the first few weeks to help them get into the habit. Then give them the space to be creative in their journal.
As parents, we can also choose to start this habit at the same time as our kids. It can be an excellent way to bond at the end of the day. Sitting together and sharing gratitude for the day is a perfect end to any day.
Other Gratitude Strategies for Kids
Learning to give thanks before a meal or a snack is a great habit. This does not have to be a religious practice however; it’s more about thanking those who helped create the meal. We can thank the farmers who grew the crops, the truck driver who transported it, the grocery store, the person who did the groceries and the person who prepared it. If you have access to a local Farmer’s Market, you can also express gratitude directly to the farmer who grew the food.
Gratitude is also very helpful when kids are going through difficult times. When we can help them to focus on a few things they are grateful for in the face of challenges at school or with friends, it really helps. My daughter was crying uncontrollably the other day, and I sat down in front of her and started to read out some of what she had written in her gratitude journal. I was amazed as it actually worked to calm her down!
Our Little Gratitude Ambassadors
When we take the time to include gratitude in our days; our children do become more grateful over time. It’s amazing to see how their perspectives can change as well. Learning to express gratitude for so many things that we take for granted every day is a valuable life lesson. And you’ll soon find that they will be influencing others around them to be more grateful too.
I invite you to adopt one of these gratitude habits today. Keep it simple, find one that you can start immediately and go for it! Check back in with me in a few months, I’d love to hear how it’s all going. Did I miss any strategies that you’re using with your kids?
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