Guest Written By: Elle Sikorski
From the moment I found out I was expecting a baby, I couldn’t wait to begin teaching my child something that means so much to me: gratitude. And, just as my mother so successfully did with me, I wanted to make sure I was prepared. You may be thinking that teaching a moral like gratitude to your child doesn’t really require planning, however, teaching your child anything can be one of the most difficult tasks a parent will do. It requires determination and lots of patience. So, why not take some simple steps to help make this teaching process a little easier? Now, before I share with you three inspiring ways I’m teaching my son gratitude, let’s take a look at what gratitude means to me.
Gratitude in Children
Simply put, gratitude is expressing appreciation for something or someone. And while hearing the words “thank you” come out of your child’s mouth can be extremely satisfying for a parent, expression of gratitude goes beyond saying thanks. For example, expressing gratitude involves experiencing it; it involves both physical and emotional knowledge. Think of it like this. In order to express gratitude, you have to first recognize what it is and acknowledge how it makes you feel. This is something my mother taught me from as early as I can remember, and it’s something I’m teaching my son today. So, how can you teach gratitude to your children? Here are three inspiring ways.
1. Teach Your Child to Become Aware of Gratitude
Is there something in your life for which you are grateful? Of course there is! So, it’s also important to teach your child to become aware of something they are grateful for. And, it doesn’t have to be something complex. It could be something as simple as being grateful for the food he eats. Even though my son is only 16-months old, I am still teaching him this type of awareness. If your child is younger, like mine, you can do this too! Something as simple as giving your child a hug before and after he’s eaten will simply remind him to return kindness.
If your child is older, teach him to thank you not just after he eats, but also before he eats. And when he thanks you, acknowledge it with a positive gesture like a smile or a hug. This will make him more aware that you were thinking about him and provided him with a nutritious, home cooked meal.
Other tips on teaching your child to become aware of gratitude include:
- Share your gratitude: By sharing gratitude with your child, he will become more aware of what it is and how to share it with others.
- Look for positives: By finding something positive in frustrating situations, your child will become more aware and appreciative of overcoming obstacles.
- Create a gratitude list: This tip is more for older children, but it’s one of my favourites. By creating a list of things you’re grateful for and posting it on the fridge, your child will be made aware of gratitude every day.
2. Teach Your Child to Feel Gratitude
I’m going to continue using the example of food – I like using this example because I don’t think that gratitude needs to be taught with materialistic things, but rather something more essential, like food. So, let’s get to it. Ask your child how it makes him feel to eat this meal? For an older child, this question is fine as is. If your child is younger, simply ask him “Do you like it?” or “Is that yummy?” Asking these questions will help your child connect his positive feeling to the gifts that he’s received in his life.
Other tips on teaching your child to feel gratitude include:
- Compliment others: Encourage your child to make compliments by sharing the things he appreciates about another person.
- Travel with your child: I can’t stress how important this is. Regardless of your child’s age, take him places. It could be to another country or it could be across town. Wherever you decide to go, traveling with your child will bring him perspective and “real life” experiences for which he will feel grateful.
3. Teach Your Child to Express Gratitude
Finally, we’ve come to the last step. And while many would think this is the only step in teaching gratitude to your child, it simply cannot be done without first practicing what we’ve discussed above. After your child is finished eating, you can ask if there’s any way he would like to show you how he felt about the meal. He may say no, or he may say yes. If he says yes, wait to see what he does. If he says no, kindly ask him to help you clear the table. With my son, I will ask if he’s done and only until he says “yes,” will I ask for his plate. After he gives me his plate, I will cheerfully say “thank you” to make him smile. Asking your child to “do” after certain experiences will motivate acts of gratitude, whether they are acts of paying it forward or simple appreciation. Something as simple clearing off the table after a meal may help your child connect his experience and actions in the outside world.
Other tips on teaching your child to express gratitude include:
- Create a gratitude jar: Again, for older children, but a great idea indeed. Encourage your child to add to the jar anytime he wishes to express gratitude.
- Always send thank you cards: Teach your child to express his gratitude for those who have added value to his life by sending them a thank you card. You can turn this into a fun arts and crafts session by creating thank you cards from scratch.
Do you have a ritual, activity or approach that helps instill gratitude in your household? Please share what's worked for you in the comment section below. I’d love to hear from you!