Gratitude is an important value to have. Instilling a sense of gratitude and graciousness in our children is important for their social and emotional skills, as well as their manners and mental health. However, often it can be a struggle to encourage children to be grateful. After all, with their limited worldview and still developing emotional skills, it’s easy for them to take the things they have for granted. To help your child experience gratitude, try out these simple five tips.
1. Lead by example
The number one way that kids learn is by watching their parents. If you aren’t showing gratitude in your everyday life, odds are your kids won’t, either. You can model gratitude for your children in any number of ways. You can talk about how grateful you are to your partner for the work they do as a parent, or to your kids for their contributions. You can even show gratitude to the waitress at dinner or your child’s teacher. Showing others your gratitude for their work will inspire and educate your children on how to show theirs.
2. Provide cultural context
Many children aren’t grateful for their parents or teachers simply because they take it for granted. Children who are raised with care often have no idea that there are those who lack what they have. This is a great problem for children to have, as it shows they never worry for their own care. However, you can help them have more appreciation by showing them that not everyone is as lucky as they. You can do this by reading books, discussing problems in the world, or even taking them out into the community to volunteer or fundraise for those who are less fortunate.
3. Discuss, don’t dictate
True gratitude is much more than simply saying “thank you” or even giving someone a present. True gratitude comes from within, with a sincere appreciation for the work and care that another has. Rather than simply telling a child what they should do to appear grateful, discuss why they can be grateful for those around them. Talk about how hard their teacher works, or how good their grandparents are at taking great care of them. Discuss how those people may feel or how hard they work to make good things happen. These conversations foster sincere appreciation and gratefulness, rather than rote recitation of thanks.
4. Help them show it
Give your child a hand showing their gratitude for those in your life. During teacher appreciation week at your child’s school, help them think of ways to thank their teacher. You could suggest making a craft, or take them shopping to pick out a present. You can ask them how they’d like to thank your mail carrier, or the checker at the grocery store. Give them opportunities to show they care and offer a hand with making it happen.
5. Provide grace
Even the best of adults don’t always show gratitude when they should, so it’s unreasonable to expect children to do it perfectly every time. Sometimes, even when someone has done something kind for us, there are still perfectly good reasons to not show it. Penalizing a child for lacking gratitude every time only shows them that gratitude is a chore. Show some grace and they’ll appreciate it.