In a world of instant gratification, it is easy for true gratitude to become obsolete. It’s important as parents that we take the time to show our kids what it means to be grateful and how to show our gratitude. There are many ways to share this gift with our children from being mindful of our own gratitude to helping foster their own.
Saying Thank you- I feel like this is the easiest seed you can plant in helping your child learn gratitude. There is so much more to being grateful, but I do believe that true gratefulness starts and ends with good manners. From a young age we have made sure to insist that our daughter says thank you even for the smallest kind gestures. Before she could talk we used the baby signs for please and thank you and she quickly caught on to the words saying “Thank you” as we handed her toys or snacks. As she has gotten older she is getting so great at remembering to say thank you without us reminding her. I truly believe that is because we made it a priority so early on.
Thank you notes– Be a stickler for thank you notes. Since my daughter was old enough to hold a crayon, she has been involved in helping with thank you notes for gifts she has received. When she was very young I let her color or finger paint, and then I used her artwork as the base of the thank you note. Now that she is able to write her letters she is responsible for signing her name and writing the gift givers’ name at the top of the card. As she ages she will be responsible for writing out her own notes. Discuss the importance of sending thank you notes and show your children how to address and stamp the notes. This is a gesture that I feel is so imperative yet it seems to be one that is getting lost in the shuffle of busy schedules. My daughter knows however that thank you notes are nonnegotiable in our home and I hope she always remembers to write them when she becomes an adult.
Gratitude Journal- A dear friend of mine suggested this idea and we started the tradition as a family last year. In November, in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, each member of our family writes down something that they are thankful for in a family journal. It was so interesting to see what each member of the family chose each day and it reminded all of us to look for positive things in our lives to be grateful for. It will also be so fun to look back on in years to come, especially since the first thing my daughter was thankful for last year was “cows”. I can hardly wait to see what she says this year.
Give thanks as a family- Each night before bed we pray as a family and thank God for our blessings. As a religious family this is an important part of our day. For families that are not religious something similar could easily be implemented. Families could go around the dinner table each night and mention things they are grateful for or people in their lives that have made a difference. Just coming together and sharing as a family can be an easy and important step in teaching kids gratitude.
Be giving, help those in need– Discover new ways to help those in need with your children. Let them see how others show their gratitude. Explain to your kids that blessing others and being blessed go hand in hand. When a friend is sick or is having a hard time, I have my daughter help me whip up a pot of soup and deliver it. During the holidays, we choose a child in need to buy presents for and I always let my daughter help me choose the gifts. Teach your children to have giving hearts and you will see their own gratitude blossom.
Model grateful behavior- As a parent, we have to constantly model the behaviors we want our children to catch on to. Let them see you be grateful. Make sure they hear you say thank you to the person who holds the door open for you or to your mother in law for babysitting. Have them watch you jot out a thank you note for the cookies a neighbor delivers. Explore as a family the things you are grateful for each day. Let them know that you are grateful for them and for their father. By modeling grateful behavior, your children will soon exhibit their own gratitude.
Gratitude is not always something that comes naturally and if we want our children to demonstrate thankful behavior it is our job to teach them. The opportunities to teach gratitude are endless. Look for those teachable moments and foster them in your child.