5 Tips for Teaching Gratitude

We all want to raise kids with a strong sense of gratitude, but teaching gratitude can actually be a bit tricky.  Young children are egocentric by nature, and gratitude doesn’t always come easily.  It takes time, practice, and patience.

Gratitude is well worth the wait and the repetition, however.  Grateful people tend to report higher levels of optimism and overall happiness.  When children learn to be grateful for the people and things around them, they, too, experience greater happiness.

encouraging-gratitude

Grateful people tend to report higher levels of optimism and overall happiness. When children learn to be grateful for the people and things around them, they, too, experience greater happiness.

Below are five tips for teaching gratitude.

Conversation starters:

When we talk about important things with our kids, we open their eyes to what matters most in the world.  While a single conversation about the meaning of gratitude is likely to go in one ear and out the other, working your feelings of gratitude into daily conversations gives your kids something to process.

It’s not so much about discussing what it means to be grateful (you’ve probably already had that conversation once or twice) as it is about pointing out the people and things that make you feel grateful.  When you share your feelings on the subject on a regular basis, your children will internalize the process and learn to do the same.

Here is a  great conversation starter printable found online from Beauty and Bedlam.

Create a gratitude jar:

Visual cues are fun for kids because they are tangible, and they can revisit them often.  Place a clear jar in the center of the table with a pen and notepad nearby.  Explain that the jar is intended to collect thoughts of gratitude whenever the moment strikes.

Make sure to visit the jar when your kids are watching and talk your way through it as you write down your grateful thoughts and put them in the jar.  Once a week during a family meal, open the jar and read all of the moments of gratitude and watch your children smile in return.

Thank you notes:

Writing thank you notes lets someone else know that you appreciate an act of kindness.  Be it a gift, a warm meal, or a day spent together, acknowledging that you appreciate the things people do for you is an important part of being grateful.

Teach your children to write thank you notes.  Young children can draw pictures and sign their names, emerging writers can trace letters, and older children can write their notes independently.

Encourage generosity: 

When kids donate to others, they learn that they can make a difference.  Have quarterly clean-out days where you put away the small clothes and toys that are no longer loved.  Have your kids think about who might benefit from their old things.

Giving clothes and toys to a younger cousin, friend, or a school in need teaches kids that there is always someone who can use a little help, and they have the power to be helpful.

Help others:

Family community service projects are a great way to bond while teaching gratitude, but you don’t have to block off a day or weekend to teach your kids to help others.  Make a meal for a sick friend, help rake the leaves for an elderly neighbor, or help take care of a newborn for a tired mommy.

When kids learn to reach out to their neighbors in small ways, they learn the importance of gratitude.

How do you teach gratitude?

What do you think?

5 Tips for Teaching Gratitude

Katie Hurley, LCSW is a Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist and writer in Los Angeles, CA. She is the author of "No More Mean Girls: The Secret to Raising Strong, Confident, and Compassionate Girls" and "The Happy Kid Handbook: How to Raise Joyful Children in a Stressful World". She earned her BA in Psychology and Women's Studies from Boston College and her MSW from the University of Pennsylvania. She divides her time between her family, her private practice and her writing. Passionate about he ... More

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3 comments

  1. Sierra says:

    I will definitely be teaching my child gratitude 🙂

  2. ProudMomma says:

    I always use situations as they come and give examples

  3. Phammom says:

    I teach it by example.

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