Teaching Your Kids About Gratitude
Speaking from my experience as a parent, I feel a bit worried about kids today. They tend to be extremely entitled and have things that I never dreamed of having as a child. I didn’t get a cell phone until I was in my 20s and I babysat because I needed the money. (True story: my babysitter now drives a nicer car than us and she is 16.) I am fearful that my kids won’t be grateful for anything because so much is given to them and I want to teach gratitude early so it stays with them their whole life.
In the past ten years, I have felt happier than ever with where I have been in life and I attribute most of that feeling to feeling grateful.
Happiness and gratitude go hand-in-hand in my opinion.
Lately, I have been thinking of more ways to teach my kids about gratitude and how to really appreciate what they have and be thankful.
Here are a few easy ideas to start instilling gratitude with your children.
- At the beginning of November, the kids and I made a chart and everyone in the family has to write one thing they are thankful for- with no repeats. It is a small way to help them think about their day and what mattered in it. I am now thinking I should do this the entire year so it is a normal part of their day.
- Volunteer work can also be a great way to help kids learn about how to pitch in and help and how to be thankful for small things. We planted trees last year for the Austin Trail Foundation with the kids and they LOVED it. They were so willing to help and they were taught how important it is for our city to have people pitch in and help.
- Before this past summer, I would take the kids on outings or adventures whenever they seem bored. Lately, I have made them earn these things so they appreciate it more. We would use X’s for bad behavior and three X’s in one week meant no activity on the weekend. When they did earn it, they were so thankful for it that they constantly repeated “thank you for taking us to the arcade (or wherever we went)” and I think part of that was adding value to the experience.
- Learning by example. I am constantly saying out loud “we are so lucky for heat in the winter, or a car that gets us places or having food at every meal” so that by default it will start to sink in for them. I also always mention about being grateful for what you have when the “I wish I had…” requests start.
- Writing a thank you card. My neighbor makes her children write thank you cards before they can play with any gift they are given and I think this is brilliant. It is a simple way that they can learn to be thankful and also write it themselves (depending on their age).
- Thanking those people you see in your everyday life. On our way to school, we see a crossing guard every day, rain or shine, hot or cold. She is smiling and happy and always greets us. Teaching my kids to say “thank you for helping us cross the street and watching traffic for us,” brings awareness to the fact that she is someone doing a job that you should be grateful for. This could be applied to bus drivers, teachers, cafeteria workers, school nurses, etc. Talk to your kids and explain how important these jobs are and how they make an impact on their everyday life.
This month is absolutely a month of gratitude and giving and I think it’s a perfect time to start talking to your kids about how to do just that. I know that the older I get the more grateful I feel so some of it does come with age, but it is never too early to lay the foundation.
What are your tips for raising grateful kids?