8 WAYS TO INSTILL TRUE GRATITUDE IN YOUR CHILD
1. Express your gratitude.
Have a moment of thanks each day when everyone shares something they’re thankful for. Whether the list includes a favorite toy, a particularly good piano lesson or a birthday card from Nana, this daily tradition can help develop a positive frame of mind. Older kids might even prefer to keep a gratitude journal and write down a few things they were thankful for each day before going to bed. This can be especially important if your child has had a particularly hard day or is in a negative mood. Realizing the good in their lives can result in a quick and significant shift of attitude.
2. Be a grateful parent.
What an invaluable exercise it is to tell our kids why we’re grateful to have them! It goes without saying that we love our kids, and that we’re thankful beyond words for their love, their smiles, their hugs and so much more. When we tell them what makes them special to us, their self-esteem is boosted for the right reasons (not because they have the latest smartphone or because they’re dressed fashionably). Plus, our example shows them that gratitude extends well beyond material things.
3. Resist the urge to shower them with too much “stuff.”
The old adage “all things in moderation” is a useful guideline here. Of course, we to want to give our kids the best, and this isn’t to suggest that we refuse to buy them anything but the bare essentials. But buying kids whatever they want, whenever they want, dilutes the gratitude impulse and it can mean that they don’t learn to value or respect their possessions. They wind up having so much stuff, they don’t appreciate each toy or game or device, as they keep setting their sights on what’s shinier and newer.
4. Have them pitch in when they want something.
If your kids get an allowance or earn money at a job, have them participate in buying some of the things they want. When kids themselves take the time to save up, they have an ownership stake in the purchase and gain an understanding of the value of a dollar by working toward what they want. It also teaches restraint and encourages kids to appreciate what they have, as well as giving them a more realistic perspective on what you and others do for them.
5. Keep thank-you notes on hand.
Sadly, sending handwritten thank-you notes seems to be a dying art. But it’s actually a perfect way to encourage kids to express gratitude — and as an added bonus, it can make the recipient’s day. Of course, it’s more than appropriate for kids to send notes when they receive gifts, but we can also encourage them to thank teachers at the end of the school year, Little League coaches, ballet teachers, kind pediatricians, helpful librarians, families who host them for overnights or parties. There are loads of opportunities throughout the year for kids to recognize and thank those who have done something special for them, and it’s a habit that if they start young, they’ll naturally carry throughout life. It’s important that kids compose and handwrite the notes themselves, and we as parents can set the example by making sure to write thank-you notes on a variety of occasions.
6. Set a good example by saying “thank you” sincerely and often.
The values our kids embrace as they get older aren’t those we nag them into learning, but the ones they see us living out. There are countless opportunities every day for us to model gratitude for our kids — for example, thanking the waitress who serves your food, the cashier who rings you up at the grocery store, the teller at the bank who cashes your check. When our kids see us expressing sincere thanks all the time, they’ll be more inclined to do so as well.
7. Encourage them to give back.
The old saying “it’s better to give than to receive” has stuck around for a reason. It really does feel great to help someone else out. Depending on their ages, kids can rake leaves for an elderly neighbor, say, or volunteer at a nursing home a few hours a week. You might even make service a family activity. When kids give their time and energy to help others, they’re less likely to take things like health, home and family for granted.
8. Insist on politeness and respect all around.
When we teach our children to treat others with dignity and respect, they’ll be more likely to appreciate the ways in which those folks contribute to and improve their lives. By the same token, they’ll be less likely to take assistance and kindness for granted, and more likely to give it the value it deserves. It’s crucial for us as parents to model for our children the importance of treating all people with respect.
11 Tips for Instilling True Gratitude in Your Kids