“The quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness”
As we delved into the start of yet another year and our family made our yearly New Year’s resolutions, I couldn’t help but reflect on all the simple things we should be grateful for. I decided as a family we were each going to make a list of at least 10 things we were grateful for and discuss them. This was such an enlightening experience for me as I was also able to understand my children’s thoughts. Obviously, my teenager was grateful for Technology, which wasn’t even a thought in my mind!
Why should we teach our children gratitude?
Research has shown grateful people report higher levels of happiness and optimism along with lower levels of depression and stress. By learning gratitude we are sensitive to other people’s feelings and develop empathy. Children who practiced gratitude showed more positive attitudes toward their school and their families. They are less judgmental and jealous and are more likely to share and help others.
How do we teach our children gratitude?
Children around the age of 2 begin to understand the concept of being thankful for specific objects such as pets or people. By age 4 they understand that being thankful goes beyond material objects and comes from acts of kindness, love and caring. Values have to be imbibed from a young age and communication is the best method of teaching our children.
Children emulate their parents and as a parent being a good role model is imperative in teaching them good manners and incorporating “please and thank you” in daily conversations. Small details as writing thank you notes for something special can also make a difference.
The dinner table can be a great start with appreciating the food on our table as well as a conversation around what each member of the family was thankful for in their day. Include children in your daily chores like feeding pets, making their bed and clearing the dinner table. This way they can appreciate the effort of others. Involve them in conversations about how we can help others, this doesn’t have to be a big project, it can be something as simple as collecting books for a fundraiser or clearing their closets and finding old toys to donate.
It is important our children remain grateful for what they have so we must remember that even when we give them material goods, it must be in moderation. Please don’t be afraid to say no! We have to teach our children both the patience and the appreciation for all the things they ask for. This can be challenging if they are surrounded by friends who are accustomed to getting everything at their request. Giving children an allowance is a helpful way for them to understand the value of money and be grateful for what they have.
A nice way to end the day could be reading a book at bedtime on gratitude. Below is a list of some of my favourites!
- The Berenstain Bears count their blessings – Stan Berenstain
- Bear Says Thanks – Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman
- Did I ever tell you how lucky you are – Dr. Seuss
- The Giving Tree – Shel Silverstein
- Gratitude Soup – Olivia Rosewood
- Sylvester and the Magic Pebble – William Steig
Our children are the future and we are all here to make a difference so let’s start our gratitude journey now.