I always feel very convicted this time of the year—I know that I should be more grateful for what I have. It is very easy to take all that we have been blessed with for granted.
Can you relate?
We feel guilt because…
*We know there’s people throughout the world who would give anything to have what we have—shelter, food, loved ones, etc.
*Innately, we know gratitude helps us connect to others. Whether we are showing gratitude or receiving it, we feel supported and a sense of community…
In fact there’s research to support the latter. According to the article Seven Ways to Foster Gratitude:
In 2006, psychologists Nansook Park and Christopher Peterson conducted an analysis of parents’ descriptions of their children’s strengths—and found that gratitude had the strongest relationship to life satisfaction.
In fact the article takes it even further: gratitude determines adult success.
Recognizing the importance gratitude plays in our lives, we must instill an attitude of gratitude in our children.
- As parents, we need to model and intentionally teach gratitude. Our children are watching us. Are we thanking the checker at the grocery store? Are we sending notes or texts when a loved one gave us a gift? Are we doing something special out of the blue for someone who helps us out? That’s the modeling. The teaching is explicit. For example at Christmas, you might say: “Your grandma gave you such a thoughtful gift! What should we do for her to show appreciation?” Sometimes they will come up with ideas. Other times you may need to give suggestions and have them choose.
2. Spend quality time with your child. When we truly appreciate someone, we do our best to focus on them. Not being constantly tied to our phone is a start. Asking your child about their day and really getting to know them as a little person is also important.
3.Support your child’s autonomy/individuality. Be authoritative yet democratic in your parenting style. Help them become their best version of themselves. Provide opportunities for them to nurture talents and strengths. Limit all screen time, so your child’s energy can be channeled into developing other talents.
4. Help them discover ways to use their talents and strengths to show gratitude to others. Maybe they are very introspective writers. They may write a beautiful letter of appreciation to a friend. Maybe they love singing or playing a musical instrument, so they play a song as a “thank you” to a relative. Or, they could be crafty, and choose to create a token of their appreciation.
5.Focus on the intrinsic goals. Help them key in on how their heart feels. Do they feel warmth towards a person who helps them? Help them brainstorm ways to show appreciation as mentioned above. Once they show their appreciation, ask them how they feel about it? Focus more on those innate feelings than extrinsic things-physical things they may receive.
6. Encourage them to look for opportunities to help others. Teach them to kind and inclusive on the playground, to speak up if someone is being bullied, and to be the student their teacher and school staff can count on to make good choices.
7. Help your child discover what matters to them; a cause. Even as children, they can make a difference in their community. Maybe they want to donate their toys to a shelter. Maybe they have a passion for the environment, and they choose to recycle. Or, maybe there’s an elderly neighbor who needs help with yard work.
When parents and teachers apply strategies such as these, our children begin to form a sense of gratitude. Gratitude shouldn’t be seasonal. It should be something that is “caught” and “taught” explicitly. When children have a sense of gratitude, they feel supported and a sense of community. Thus, increasing their chances of living a fulfilling, successful adult life.
For 32 concrete, scientifically- based strategies for encouraging gratitude in children, check out the book: