Nurturing Gratitude in Children

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Nurturing Gratitude in Children

Nurturing Gratitude in Children
  • Show appreciation to your children. Slow down and observe more closely. You’ll see things you appreciate about your kids—then tell them! Appreciation can be an even more powerful motivator than praise. Sharing appreciation is a strong way to feel connected to one another.
  • Show appreciation for others. Never underestimate the power of your words and actions. Your children are paying attention to the way you treat others, whether it’s friends, neighbors, a teacher, or the cashier at the market. They hear your tone with the salesperson on the phone. You set a great example when you model kindness, generosity, and gratefulness in your own everyday interactions.
  • Use the word “grateful.” Children need to learn what this new word means. Explain that being grateful is noticing something in your life that makes you happy. “I’m grateful that it’s sunny today because it was raining yesterday.” Mention gratitude when you’re doing an everyday pleasant activity, like hanging out at the playground or eating watermelon on a hot day. Pause and say, “I’m so grateful for this day!” or “Wow, this is fun!” Your enthusiasm will be contagious.
  • Make a Thankful Tree. Cut a tree trunk from cardboard or construction paper. Tape to a wall or window and cut out some leaf shapes. Ask your child to think of something they are thankful for and write one on each leaf. Then tape the leaf to a branch. Add your own “thankful things.” You can ask visitors to participate as well, by giving them each a leaf to hang on the tree, too.
  • Emphasize presence over presents. Some people manage to pull off the “no gifts” approach to their children’s birthday parties. (The key is to start very young!) An alternative approach is to opt for a book swap or ask for donations to a local food bank or animal shelter. You can also make it a habit to give the gift of time and activities—like a birthday picnic and trip to a local park—as opposed to “stuff.”
  • Talk openly about donations and other “good deeds.” You don’t have to have a lot of money to make a difference. You can let your toddler put a quarter in a musician’s hat or share a batch of cookies with a neighbor. If you have money in your budget to donate to a favorite cause, share this giving with your children: “We’re giving some of our money to help animals that don’t have homes.” Keep explanations simple and matter-of-fact. As children grow up, they will eventually see that helping and giving are part of your family’s culture.