Teaching Your Kids Gratitude
While we can be grateful that we were born, we’re not born grateful. Since gratitude isn’t something that children acquire automatically, we must nurture and teach it in an age-appropriate way.
A 2019 study published in the Journal of Happiness Studies found that gratitude is linked to happiness in children by age 5. Other benefits from kids expressing gratitude include experiencing higher levels of positive emotions like optimism, enthusiasm and love and feeling better about their lives. Plus, giving your kids the tools to feel and express gratitude as a child can help them reflect on more reasons to be grateful as an adult.
Though gratitude is an abstract skill, there are ways we can help teach kids to have an attitude of gratitude and look at situations from a point of appreciation rather than defeat. Use these quick ideas to teach your kids gratitude.
Make “Thank You” a Frequent Phrase
Manners are an essential practice to teach children, but there’s a difference between politely saying “please” and “thank you,” and actually meaning it. Emphasize to children why they’re saying thanks.
Draw Attention to the Little Things
Encourage your kids to look for and acknowledge awe-inspiring moments throughout their day. Give them examples by pointing out simple joys you experience, such as savoring a favorite snack or hearing kind words from a friend. Making the ordinary come alive for children can help instill gratitude; the extraordinary will take care of itself.
Did you know the act of giving and gratitude share a neural pathway in the brain? Whether at a homeless shelter, soup kitchen or nonprofit, look for ways you and your kids can spend time giving back to your community.
Send “Thank You” Notes
Thank you cards are not only for those who have gifted you items but also for anyone who has added value to your life in small ways. Demonstrate gratitude by writing thank you cards or notes with your children, encouraging them to be thankful for both tangible gifts and gifts of others’ time.
Reflect as Much as Possible
Since repetition creates the foundation for all learning, reflect daily to help instill new habits into children. Take a moment each day – dinnertime, for example – to have conversations about what your children are grateful for. Guide the discussion by asking questions like, “What or who made you feel joy today?” Lead by example and share your own gratitude every day.