It can be incredibly difficult as a parent to stay on top of all the lessons a child needs to learn to develop into an amazing human being. However, even in spite of all the challenges in teaching lessons, we must always remember to teach our kids gratitude first and foremost.
Gratitude is being thankful and showing appreciation towards a person, an act, or a situation. We can easily assume that our kids feel grateful internally, but it is equally as important to teach them how to properly express their gratitude to others. Showing gratitude is, after all, only one of many ways our kids can be lights in this world.
Be the Example
Leadership is an action, not a position.” – Donald McGannon
This is the number one thing you need to remember when teaching your children gratitude. You simply cannot teach that which you do not understand personally. If you desire and expect your children to be grateful, you must become grateful yourself. That means that all the following advice and tips are for you as well.
Teach Your Kids to Share
While instilling senses of independence and autonomy is a huge deal and vital to the health of your child, so is learning how to share. Sharing reminds a child of the concept of borrowing. If you borrow something, ideally you’re less likely to disrespect it or treat it carelessly, and so you take care of it better. This is the same as when your child shares. When she learns to share in the appropriate situations, she’s made aware that she isn’t the only person in possession of an item, and so must take care of it for the sake of other people.
Encourage Your Kids to Speak or Write About Their Gratitude
As stated above, it isn’t enough to just feel grateful, we must learn to express our gratitude as well. This requires the ability to articulate our feelings in some way, whether it’s spoken or written. A good way to practice this is to discuss what each family member is grateful for over dinner or as you tuck the kids into bed. If speaking gratitude poses a bit challenging, keep a gratitude journal and encourage your kids to write a sentence or two a night about what they’re grateful for.
Encourage Your Kids to Do Chores
Chores are an incredibly important part of instilling good behavior in children. Much like sharing teaches a child that he isn’t the only one using or playing with something, chores teach a child that everyone is responsible for cleaning up after themselves, and sometimes even after others. Chores hold children accountable for the kinds of messes they are responsible for making. Additionally, chores open the child’s eyes to how hard you work for them every single day. When your child begins picking up chores, he is aware of all you do for him, and he certainly becomes more grateful for it.
Bring Your Children Along to Charitable Events
Charitable events help a child see a much broader image of their community and others who live in it. These kinds of events offer an opportunity for others to come together for a cause.
Teach Your Kids the Importance of Volunteering
Consider encouraging your child to volunteer the hard tasks in the community for deep gratitude. These kinds of volunteering opportunities could be volunteering childcare free of charge for a mother in need, feeding the hungry at a local soup kitchen, offering aid at food pantries, becoming a community mentor, big brother or big sister, or visiting the elderly at the nursing homes. Every volunteer opportunity places the child in a position where he can witness and experience what it is like to be less fortunate, and this will most certainly provide the child with a better understanding of how to be more grateful.
Teach Your Kids to Give a Gift in Order to Receive a Gift
One incredibly effective way to teach gratitude is to teach your child how to give up a toy for every toy they receive. Doing this teaches the child that toys and possessions aren’t just endlessly supplied on a regular basis. Giving a toy away places a lifetime on a toy or a possession and makes it much more precious.
Integrate Grateful Language Into Your Daily Language
Integrating grateful language into your daily language means that you should begin (if you haven’t already) incorporating common expressions of gratitude in your everyday language, at every opportunity presented. This means saying “please,” “thank you,” and “you’re welcome.” While you want your children to learn these, you must also not forget to use these kind expressions back. Additionally, if your child fails to use these expressions, she needs your accountability to remind her that it’s important to speak these things.