5 Simple Ways to Foster An Attitude of Gratitude In Children
Nov 25, 2015
On Thanksgiving, perhaps more than any other time during the year, we sit down and openly express gratitude for all that we have. We laugh loudly, eat well, catch up with loved ones, and maybe even reserve this one day of the year as the designated day to say Grace. And then the day of thanks is over. We say our goodbyes, pack up the leftovers, and blow out the candles.
That open-hearted love that we share on this day of thanks does not subside, but it does seem to lay somewhat dormant for a time. Why not show – not just teach – our children that counting our blessings is something that we can do every day and in so many ways?
It is important to note that this process of fostering an attitude of gratitude will have lasting effects. Not only do studies show that expressing gratitude can increase happiness levels by up to 25%, but they find a clear correlation between grateful thinking and more positive attitudes towards school and family.
But the truth is that expressing gratitude is no small task, and one that many of us likely struggle with. The best way to help our children count their blessings often starts with us counting ours. That’s why we put together five simple ways to inspire an attitude of gratitude starting today.
1. Be a grateful – spread compassion.
For better or for worse, children learn how to act from the parental figures in their lives. Their minds are like sponges as they try to figure out acceptable behavior; how to act, respond, and interact with their peers. Encourage compassion for others by displaying compassion yourself. Help an elderly person struggling up a flight of the stairs, hold the door for strangers, or let that extra car go in traffic. These are teachable moments with lasting impacts.
2. Share hand written notes.
Sometimes it’s hard to say exactly what we mean, and in a way that expresses exactly how we feel. Putting words to paper is a tangible way to show your child that you recognize their contributions. If you came home and the kitchen counters are freshly cleaned and the dishwasher has been emptied, let your child know how much you appreciate that act with a hand-written note left on the fridge. Being open with your wholehearted gratitude will show them that it is okay to do the same for others.
3. Giving responsibility begets responsibility.
Children respond when they are given special tasks or responsibilities. Think how many times you’ve heard your child say, “I can do it!” Let them show you and make sure to express interest in what is being done. Chances are that your child wants to show you how much they have grown and that they can handle added responsibilities around the house – an inherent part of maturation and growing up. Letting a six year old chop vegetables is not our suggestion, but when the time comes, they will revel in that newfound independence and be grateful for the added responsibility granted to them.
4. Ask them to chip in for that “must-have” item.
If you’re like us, you want to give your child every luxury that you can afford. But at some point, showering a child with all the things they want can backfire. If a must-have video game comes out in November, ask for help with raking the leaves. Ask for a clean room before slapping down a twenty dollar bill to spend on that that new toy. Your child might not jump at the thought of cleaning their room or taking out the trash, but it will teach them the value of a dollar. They will be grateful for what they have earned, instead of taking for granted what they are given.
5. Help put things in perspective.
When your child comes home in tears due to a poor grade on a test, it is because they don’t want to feel inferior to their peers. But more importantly, it is because they don’t want to disappoint you. Let them know that in the grand scheme of things, one poor test grade won’t have the slightest impact on the quality of their life. Though, if underperformance becomes a habit instead of the exception, it might be time to sit down and calmly discuss the cause. Perhaps even enlighten your child on how fortunate they are to attend school and have the opportunities that so many throughout the world never will. Show them there is often a silver lining when you look at any situation in the right way.
Here at World Academy, we make every effort to instill these values starting with our youngest students. One example is the recent community service project involving our kindergartners (the smile youngsters in the image for this blog). They came together to collect paper goods needed for Thanksgiving dinner at a local non-profit that provides low-income, homeless, and disabled New Hampshire community members with a variety of supportive services. Not only did they come together to accomplish a common goal, but the hope is that when they sit down to share that next Thanksgiving meal, gratitude is something they are able and willing to express.