Teaching Gratitude to Children
Saying "thank-you" is one of the first rules for good manners that parents teach their children and for good reason too!
Children need to learn to be appreciative of what they have and not take everything they have for granted. Learning to be grateful improves their relationships, their ability to empathize, deal with adversity, and in fact, their overall happiness. Instilling gratefulness in young children from an early age will benefit them in later life; it helps them grow up to be happier people, they tend to be less envious, depressed, and materialistic.
So it is very clear that there are many good reasons to help children experience and express gratitude.
In a time when many young children carry costly mobile phones and other costly electronic gadgets that they take for granted, teaching gratitude can be a challenging and uphill task. But it can still be worthwhile to start teaching them from their young age.
Scientists have identified 4 parts of gratitude that parents can use to help their children appreciate and be thankful:
Notice - Help them notice and focus on the gift behind the gift.
Think - Why do they think they received the gift?
Feel - How does the gift make them feel?
Do - Is there a way they want to show how they feel receiving the gift?
Ask your children what they notice, think, and feel about things or gifts that they had received and what would they want to do after receiving them. This will encourage them to feel and express their gratitude beyond just saying thank you.
Here are some tips to cultivate gratitude in our children:
Be the model:
Children learn from observing their parents so make sure you use "please" and "thank you" when you talk to them and encourage them to use them regularly. You can also start them on the practice of writing 'thank you' notes when they receive gifts or kindness from others.
Establish a family Gratitude ritual:
Each member of the family can start listing things that they are grateful for either just before a meal or before going to sleep. Even though this may not be a spontaneous expression of gratitude, making expressing gratitude a habit will ensure that kids practice it regularly, and over time it can become like second-nature to them.
Starting to look at the bright side in everything:
Asking them questions that will help your child discover the potential silver lining in a challenging situation will teach them to begin doing it on their own and even on bad days, they will start to see that they have a lot to be grateful for.
Give them responsibilities:
Unless you are on the giving end yourself, it is hard to appreciate other people's efforts. It allows them to focus on what they can give and do rather than what they can get. It moves the interest off of themselves and onto others.
Developing gratitude takes time, practice, and reflection. When children experience and express gratitude they are more likely to use them to help others.
Overall, when parents practice a lifestyle of gratitude and appreciation in their homes with their children, it can truly be an investment for their future.