With Thanksgiving almost upon us it is the season for gratitude. Gratitude is a difficult concept to teach, particularly with toddlers and preschoolers, who by the nature of their development are self-centered. However, as parents, we still need to start here. Grateful children are able to look outside their own universe and understand that others do things for them – prepare food, buy clothes, provide hugs. If we start in the toddler years, we will be growing children who, in the future, will be happier and more optimistic. If you’ve missed the toddler years, you can work ‘gratitude’ into your daily life no matter the age(s) of your child(ren).
Here are some ideas:
Have gratitude be part of your daily life.
- Express gratitude in your own language. “Aren’t we lucky to have Mrs. Brown next door, who gives us fresh tomatoes every summer?”
- Have a ‘thanking’ part of each day, a time when everyone shares something good that happened to them that day. A good time for this is at dinner every evening.
- You can invite your children to join you in keeping a family gratitude journal or another way of documenting gratitude. Here is one idea.
- Family meetings start with compliments and appreciations. For the month of November you can switch it up and share things you are grateful for.
Make the world a better place.
- Have a family a generosity project. Buy a holiday gift for a foster child (agencies often sponsor these donations) or make a basket of muffins or cookies for a sick or elderly neighbor. Donate to your school food drive.
- Expect that your children write thank-you notes when they receive a gift.
- Go on an outdoor litter-gathering walk.
“Immunize” your child from entitlement.
- It is easy in our media rich world to always want more. It is not your job to keep your child happy all of the time. It is your job to meet their needs, but not all of their wants.
- Most children ask for things continually. It is difficult to feel grateful when your every wish is granted. Practice saying ‘no’ to your children when it is appropriate.
- Notice what happens for you when your child is disappointed. Know that your child will be more resilient if he or she can grow those muscles too.
Remember, parents are the models on which children build their ideas of themselves and the world. We also need to practice feeling and expressing gratitude.
More on gratitude?
Read our post on Gratitude and Generosity
Or our post on Growing Character