Teach your child gratitude: getting the gratitude attitude

Since even your seven or eight year old can absorb your attitudes, consider making gratitude a top one.

What’s the most common mistake a parent can make when it comes to teaching their kids about gratitude?

You don't have to wait until Thanksgiving to teach your child about being grateful.  Unfortunately, we’re often so busy that we can forget to use everyday teachable moments to help our children be thankful for all that they have. It’s important that moms and dads make a conscious effort to make gratitude part of their family culture.

shutterstock_90095293.jpgRecognize gratifying moments in your own life and then lead by example.

Start dinner by sharing a moment where you were grateful in the day, and then engage the rest of the family to share their moments of gratitude. For example, being thankful that your old car still runs well or being grateful that someone helped carry groceries to your door.

shutterstock_106719350.jpgHow do you help a 7 to 8 year old understand that?

Groom your kids to see the big picture in life – the worldview. This way, they’ll get to see how people live when they don’t have the things that your kids may have. There are great photo books and magazines, like National Geographic Kids, to use as reference; or check for DVDs at your local library. At this age, kids will start to realize that they have a lot of opportunities that others don’t.

How do you make that more concrete for them?

shutterstock_116885230.jpgThe best way is to get your kids to participate locally. For instance, offer to volunteer as a family at a local food bank, or donate to a toy drive. These are great teachable moments to help your children understand that even if your family doesn’t have many luxuries, there are neighbors who may have even less. And at this age, kids are naturally empathetic and want to help others.

Remember that teachable moments are experiential. Your kids won’t learn about gratitude if you wag your finger and nag about the proverbial starving children in other parts of the world. For example, if they keep losing their action-hero lunch bag, give them the option to use a regular plastic bag or use their allowance money to buy a new one. This is what experts call “gratitude with accountability”. It helps kids value what they have.

Other ways to teach kids the value of things they may take for granted

shutterstock_112499120.jpgGet your kids to participate in deciding what to do with things they don’t use or clothes that no longer fit. Help them go through their closet and take out items that they no longer wear. Put them in a bag and let them help you drop it off at a charity. This way they learn that stuff has value — and that people are grateful to receive it.

Remember that your morals, values, and ethics become an integral part of your child’s psychological makeup. If you have been imparting good values to your children, they will stay with him for the rest of his life.  

shutterstock_71662492.jpgTo teach your children the value of gratefulness, be sure to role model grateful behavior:

  • Children need to see you being grateful for what you have. That might mean not running out to buy the latest purse or the newest electronic gadget.
  • Let them see you saying thank you to the postman, the store clerk, and your friends.
  • Tell them, “I am so grateful to have you in my life.”
  •  When they come home from school, say “It's good to see you.”
  • Let them see you and your spouse thank each other. Thank your spouse for making dinner, for taking out the garbage, or cleaning a clogged drain or for making a phone call to a relative you really don't want to speak to.
  • Don’t complain about all the things you don’t have.
  • Write a gratitude journal and tell them about it in a warm and friendly way.
  • Enjoy the beauty around you and point it out to your children – share sunsets, falling snowflakes, laughing babies, and blossoming trees.
Being grateful for what we have is one of the secrets of successful living. Fostering gratitude in ourselves will enhance our family life and give our children the direction they need to cultivate their own happiness.


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