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5 Ways to Teach Gratitude to Children

November 21, 2013

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The concept of gratitude is not an easy one for kids, or even most young adults, to grasp. It’s just natural for children to be ego-centered and more focused on continually satisfying the desire of the moment, rather than reflecting on how good it is to be a kid, or how incredible the people around them are.

Add to that living in a consumer-driven culture catering to instant gratification no matter what your age, and the idea of being thankful seems… old-fashioned.

Yet studies reveal that cultivating an attitude of gratitude can have immense benefits to children’s behavior, mood, and outlook on life.

So how do you begin to encourage gratitude in your kids? Like most healthy habits, it all begins with having a positive role model!

Try these 5 tips to foster appreciation in your little ones:

Show gratitude for the little things around you.

The world is full of amazing things to appreciate with your kids, such as warm sunny days, beautiful falling leaves, ice cream, a visit from grandma, a friendly pet, and much more. All of these good things are a chance to show your kids that there is much in life worth celebrating.

Good times art projects.

If your child enjoys arts and crafts, then give this a try: print copies of your favorite family photos where happy memories were shared, and create a scrapbook! Your child can help with coloring or adding decorations and you can talk about what fun you had during the process. It’s a great way to appreciate the people and experiences in your life.

“What you love” game.

While we’ve all heard that keeping a gratitude journal is a wonderful way to be reminded of what you’re grateful for each day, this doesn’t work for the littlest ones. They may have a hard time understanding the word “gratitude,” but they’ll know the word “love” from an early age. So as you’re tucking them into bed at night, play the love game, where you take turns saying aloud the things you love (school, a favorite toy, a brother or sister, singing songs, etc). Alternatively, you can ask your child to share 3 good things that happened that day.

Be vocal with your own gratitude.

We all know that children are sponges for learning new things, and that they learn the most from their primary caregivers. So be sure that they hear you saying “thank you” and showing gestures of appreciation. It’s helpful to remind your kids to thank others when they do something for them, but don’t become militant about it. Simply making it a regular part of your daily interactions is all it takes for them to absorb grateful behavior.

Give tasks to accomplish.

Asking your child to do something for someone else is a great way to help them experience the positive feeling of doing for others, and being rewarded with gratitude. This will also teach empathy, so that when someone does something for them, they’ll remember that the other person had to go out of their way and that this is worth recognizing with kindness.

How do you encourage gratitude with the children in your life?