Teaching gratitude to your children is important for so many reasons. First of all, it makes your child more enjoyable to be around. And people want to do more for those who appreciate their efforts.
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But if you want them to experience happiness in life, they must learn to be grateful for what they have today. How can you invite more into your life until you are grateful for what you already have?
Parents need to model behavior they want their children to have. A simple, sincere expression of gratitude when the kids do something they were asked to do is always appreciated.
Taking an extra moment to thank a sales clerk at the store or to tip your gardener for really doing a great job lets them know that gratitude is a standard in your home…and you are always looking to reward those that demonstrate quality work with praise.
We must be intentional with our parenting. We must actively look for opportunities to teach our children if we want to instill these important virtues into their lives. Here are 3 steps to take to teach gratitude to your children.
1 – Offer selfless service.
In our home, we eat a lot of fresh produce. Sometimes we over buy. Rather than letting the produce go to waste, we toss a salad or something similar together and my husband and son run it to the local food bank.
They love receiving fresh produce because most of their donations come in the form of cans and boxes. Allowing your children to see how grateful the volunteer workers are as well as those eating there are, can really make an impact on your child’s life.
This could be done through donating items to a shelter or visiting the elderly in a care facility. The actual act of service is not as important as simply giving it. A little selfless service typically tends to make selfishness go away…and gratitude return.
2 – Try going without.
From time to time, have a family project that involves going without something important. For example, try making bread for a week rather than buying it, or try biking to any destination less than two miles away. A little sacrifice causes us to miss things that we take for granted and helps us be a little more humble and grateful for the…car, or toy, or whatever.
I find that the learning is more beneficial when this is done in a proactive way rather than a reactive way. For example if the child looses the privilege of a toy for disciplinary reasons…they child may not associate receiving the toy back with gratitude.
He or she may learn the lesson that if I don’t keep my room clean I loose the privilege of certain toys -a great lesson. But may miss the principle of gratitude.
Try “going without” as a proactive fun family adventure and be sure to express your gratitude for the usefulness of the items you went without!
3 – Expect thanks, don’t guilt thanks.
“I work so hard every day for you, and I never hear a word of thanks.” There is nothing wrong with encouraging a child to express gratitude or reminding them. In our home it is an expectation to say the simple words of “thank-you” for just about everything.
But shaming children into saying it does not raise the vibration level of your home. They will fill bad about it, about you, about themselves…and probably resent you. Have expectations and allow your children to rise to the occasion.
Invite them to say thank you. Tell them you appreciate their nice words and you will get more and more to be thankful for yourself!
Sometimes as parents we forget that one of the most important roles we play is teacher. It is our responsibility to teach our children principles to guide their lives. Let’s take steps today to teach gratitude to our children and parent with purpose!
Written by Carolyn Pennington. Reprinted with permission.