Teaching Gratitude How to Teach Your Child Thankfulness
Gratitude can be a difficult subject to teach to children – many adults also struggle with the concept. Sometimes, saying thank you does not seem enough. Other times, we take for granted simple things in life that we should also be grateful for each day. Teaching gratitude to our children is important at any age, just as it is also crucial for us to remember. The simple act of stepping outdoors, looking around, taking in a deep breath, and realizing what an amazing world we live in is enough to get us centered and back in a state of gratitude for the life we have.
It is easy to teach a child to say “thank you” when he or she receives a present or a compliment. When your child asks for a drink or snack, reminding him or her to say “please and thank you” set the groundwork for a lifetime of thankfulness. However, gratitude goes much deeper than that, and that is what we will explore in this easy-to-use guide for children of every age.
Before we get started, take a moment to think about the last time you were grateful. How did it make you feel? What was the intent behind the action that made you thankful? It is just as important to teach your child to take notice of the reasons behind a thoughtful gesture or gift, as well as their feelings.
Gratitude and the Preschool Years – Instilling Thankfulness At a Young Age
Teaching gratitude to toddlers and preschoolers can set a basis for a lifetime of thankfulness. Mealtime is a great place to start, as you let your child know that the earth provides us with a bountiful selection of yummy foods to eat. At the same time, you can explain the importance of not wasting food.
Playtime is another opportunity to teach gratitude, reminding your child of who gave them their favorite toy, and how to show appreciation by caring for their belongings and putting them away at the end of the day. Of course, that also helps accomplish the lesson of cleaning up – a double teaching moment.
Holidays and birthdays are an excellent time to instill gratitude in young children through the donation of one of their presents (a toy) to less fortunate children. This action allows a child to be thankful for the gifts he or she receives while sharing with those who do not have the same blessings. Teaching children to donate to a charity a small percentage of any money they were gifted is another way to express gratitude.
Writing thank you cards at this age can consist of the child drawing a picture as an expression of gratitude. Getting a child in the habit of “writing” thank you cards at an early age makes it easier for them to continue this practice in later years.
Gratitude Hearts – Creating Thankfulness At Any Age
- Get a pack of multi-colored construction paper and cut out hearts of different sizes. Place the hearts in a “Gratitude Box” and put it on a table where all children can access it.
- Add some crayons (for younger children) and markers (for older children).
- Each day (or week) have your children take out at least one heart to share thankfulness with another person. They can make a heart for a parent, sibling, relative, teacher, or friend.
- As children get older, they can learn to go to the box whenever a thought of gratitude comes to mind.
- Parents – show your gratitude for receiving these hearts by displaying them in a special location. (Don’t forget to teach by example – giving your children hearts to thank them for cleaning up, being nice, a special hug, etc.)
10 Gratitude Expressions at Any Age
- Nightly expressions of what they were grateful for during the day
- Gratitude over the food they receive
- Share appreciation for others – compliments
- Donations of money, gifts, outgrown clothes, and time (volunteering) to those in need – giving helps foster gratitude in what we have
- Gratitude walks – appreciating the world around us
- Creating a gratitude jar – writing down anything that happens or comes to mind
- Showing gratitude through gift-giving to others
- Looking for the positive in every situation – teaching appreciation
- Writing thank you cards – not just for presents – also for actions
- Saying please and thank you – appreciating everyone through good manners
Gratitude and the Elementary School Years – Fostering Ongoing Thankfulness
As children enter elementary school, their ability to process thoughts and actions enables you to take gratitude a step further. At this time, they will begin to learn that some children have more than they have, and others have less. Now is the time to explain how appreciation of what they have is important, and why envy or jealousy is not beneficial as no two families or people are ever alike. It is also important to point out how there is so much more to life than material objects, such as being thankful for the love of one’s family.
Another excellent way to teach gratitude is by having your child shop for a less fortunate child at back-to-school shopping time. While buying his or her school supplies, have your child pick out and fill a backpack for another child to donate to a local charity. Your child learns that he or she has so much to be thankful for when even something as little as a box of crayons can make a difference in someone else’s life.
At this age, it is essential to turn thank you card writing into a fun activity rather than a chore. The longer you put it off, the more of a chore it becomes. Whenever possible, write the thank you cards before using the gift. Have your child write what the gift was and what made it special – even if it was to be a donated gift later on. Example: Thank you for the truck. I like how fast it can go.
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