Gratitude is an important virtue especially when it comes to raising confident children. It is important as parents to be able to teach and model gratitude to our kids daily. In a previous post I had written on bible verses about praise and thanksgiving. Gratitude goes hand in hand with thanksgiving. When we are grateful for things, we are able to be thankful. Teaching kids about gratitude can be challenging especially for parents. We can start by teaching them ways to be grateful, however it is equally important to model gratitude to them. One reason we as parents are unable to teach our kids gratitude is not knowing how to teach them or thinking they are too young to learn about it. I used to think this way, however I realized it does not have to be a complicated teaching process, we simply implement gratitude into our day to day lives with our children and we can learn to raise grateful kids one day at a time.
“Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions. The more you express gratitude for what you have, the more likely you will have even more to express gratitude for.” Zig Ziglar
The value of gratitude
It builds empathy
Gratitude builds empathy in children. When we raise grateful children, they are more sensitive and empathetic towards others. They learn that they are simply stewards of all they have and learn to show empathy to others especially when they see those in need.
It improves and builds strong relationships
Gratitude improves and builds strong relationships in kids. Thanking others for things and saying “please” and “thank you” are key to building healthy relationships not only personally but also professionally. On the other hand, when we raise entitled children, they lack gratitude, disregard people and do not see value in relationships.
It builds humility
Gratitude helps raise kids that are humble rather than arrogant. This is similar to building healthy relationships. It allows us to be less focused on ourselves and more focused on those around us.
How to teach gratitude
So how do we teach our kids to show gratitude? Here are a few key ways to help them:
Model gratitude to them
The most important way to teach our kids gratitude is by modeling it to them. It’s not enough to just teach them something, we also need to show them. The bible says in James 1:22-25 that we should not only be hearers of the word but also doers. When we as parents are grateful, its easier to raise grateful children because we are able to implement gratitude into our daily lives naturally which gives them an opportunity to not only hear but also see us display a heart of gratitude. As simple as it sounds, sometimes we innocently do not model it loudly for our children to see.
Find simple ways in your day to model gratitude to them. It can be as simple as thanking God for another beautiful day or stepping outside and being grateful for the weather or for the house you live in. One way I try to do this at home is when my daughter does not want to eat certain foods, I remind her that there are several families that do not even have enough to eat not to talk of picking what they want and that she needs to be grateful that we are fortunate to have more than enough food.
Teach them to say thank you
Encourage your kids to say thank you regularly. When they are given things, they need to learn to say thank you. I usually remind my daughter even when I give her something to say thank you by gently reminding her. Or sometimes she gets something from grandma I ask her “did you tell grandma thank you?”, sometimes she forgets and I ask her to go back to grandma and say thank you. This is not necessarily forcing the child to be grateful, however I have noticed with my daughter, she may be grateful but still sometimes forgets to express it by saying thank you. Whenever she does remember on her own, I make sure to verbally encourage her so she knows its important.
Make gratitude a part of your day
Make it a part of your day by finding little opportunities to say thank you and encourage your children to do the same. You could drive to a store to get things and encourage them to say thank you to the sales person. At our home, we say bedtime prayers then thank God for the day and for all that we have, this helps her get into the daily routine of showing gratitude especially to God.
Get them involved in donating
Find ways to donate and get them involved. This is an area I need to do more of, I usually donate but do not really include my daughter and I have noticed it does not make much impact when I explain it to her afterwards. Sometimes when we get new toys, I ask her to pick a gently used toy she would like to donate to another child. I believe this helps to build a giving spirit in our children and also helps them understand that it’s not always about receiving things, but also about being able to give to others and let go of things.
It might even be helpful to take them to places where they can actually see for themselves the need that is in the world. Drive around and find an area you can show your children to be grateful for the lives they have compared to what poverty looks like. This will also be a good teaching moment about kindness and not looking down on others. I wrote a post on some simple ways to give back with your kids.
Make them earn things
Sometimes it’s a great idea to make your kids work to earn things. For instance, if they want a particular toy, they could help around the house to earn the toy. I personally do not believe kids should get everything they ask for especially when they are just “wants”.
Read books about gratitude
Reading with our kids is so essential for several reasons. There is so much knowledge out there that we may not even know about, and by reading, they can be exposed to a variety of experiences besides those of people close to them. There are several books that teach kids about gratitude and most times, these books are colorful or well presented in ways that make it easy for kids to understand. I have listed a few books on gratitude for kids towards the end of this post.
Start a family gratitude project or gratitude ritual
Find ways to perform random activities or acts of kindness. You could start a family gratitude project with everyone involved in expressing gratitude. Maybe start a project where everyone writes what they are thankful for each day and then share why it made them feel grateful and how they felt about it. This would also be a great way for everyone to bond and have conversations. There are several family activities like gratitude jars, gratitude trees etc that you could start together. For gratitude rituals, try a tradition of going round the dinner table and giving thanks for something that happened throughout the day.
At bedtime or shower time, you could spend some time talking with each child about a few things they are grateful for. The tradition could also be writing thank you notes to someone once a week or once a month to show appreciation.
Teach them to love God
By teaching our kids to love God, we in turn teach them to be grateful because God is the source of everything and its only in him we can truly develop a life of gratitude. When we love God above everything else, we are able to stay grateful in the face of everything else.
Have whole hearted conversations about gratitude
Talking about gratitude with our children will help us all to be open about it and learn from each other. It also gives them the opportunity to ask questions on things they may not understand and allows us to see any gaps in their understanding. We can start by having conversations about what it means to be grateful and then expand on it. There is a Raising Grateful Children Project at UNC Chapel Hill that explains ways to think about gratitude as an experience that has four parts:
- What we NOTICE in our lives for which we can be grateful
- How we THINK about why we have been given those things
- How we FEEL about the things we have been given
- What we DO to express appreciation in turn
It emphasized that by doing this model, we learn that gratitude is not only about how we receive things but also how we give to others.
They carried out a study that said 85% of parents focus on what children DO to show gratitude and always asked them to say thank you in ways consistent with good manners. 39% of parents encouraged their children to show gratitude in ways that went beyond good manners. Another large amount reminded their children when they had received something to be thankful for. It’s a really good study to look into, but the summary was that it’s important to dig deeper as parents by asking kids more questions about their gratitude. For instance, “why do you think you received this gift?” “Does it make you feel happy to receive it?” “is there a way you want to show how you feel about this gift?” and other questions like these.
Children’s books on gratitude
Gratitude Activities for Kids
This is such a great family activity! You simply put out a jar, it can be a container whether big or small, and everyone writes something they are grateful for each day and then drop it into the jar. You could start this beginning of November and then open it up on thanksgiving day to read it out loud. Its such a wonderful reminder of the little joys and reasons to be thankful. Its so easy to slip into the busy-ness of the day and forget to notice the little things happening around us. But when we intentionally look out for little joys around us, we realize there is so much to be grateful for.
This is similar to a gratitude jar but instead your kids write what they are grateful for on cut out leaves and then create fake trees on paper. Its really easy and is another great way to have fun, start conversations and teach your kids about gratitude.
Search for bible verses about gratitude and thanksgiving to discuss with you kids. The bible is so full of bible verses that can help teach your family about gratitude. Feel free to check out my blog post about scriptures for praise and thanksgiving.
Thank you notes
Come together as a family to write thank you notes to people you know. It does not have to be anything complex, but is a nice way to show appreciation to those around you while also learning more about gratitude.
With gratitude journals, you can write out reasons you as a family are grateful. The 3 Minute Gratitude Journal for Kids is a great Journal to Teach Children to Practice Gratitude and Mindfulness.
Gratitude scavenger hunt
Check out this free scavenger hunt printable from SimpleAcres.
This is another fun family game. Have each child pick out a letter of the alphabet and come up with something they are thankful for that starts with that letter.
Teaching our children to have hearts of gratitude is an important part of parenting and investing in their futures. Its not easy raising grateful kids, but I hope you find some of these tips helpful! Also please check out the books on gratitude and try out some of the activities as well. Comment below to share some ways you teach your kids gratitude or maybe even some other books or games you have tried.
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