Being thankful for the people dear to you and the things you have in life can promote individual happiness, create strong bonds between family members and friends, and even improve self-esteem. Even though Thanksgiving is a convenient time to teach your children about gratitude, any time is as good as any to instill in your children how and why to be thankful. Here are some tips for teaching your children how to express and show thankfulness.
Teach Kids to Say “Thank You”
This step is the most common way parents and caregivers like you first start to teach children how to express gratitude in their daily lives. You typically start by telling them that it’s the kind thing to say when someone gives you a gift, helps you with a task, gives your a compliment, or does any other good deed for you. Then, you might model it for them by thanking them when they give you something or help you do a task. Finally, you may also remind them to say those magic words in a situation in which they should say them.
Ask Questions About Your Kids’ Gratitude Experiences
Saying “thank you” because you know you should is one thing, but it’s a whole other thing to do so because you feel compelled to by a positive experience. That’s where you as a parent or caregiver can help your children consider thankfulness as more than just good manners.
A University of North Carolina study done in 2017 found that a lot of parents rely on teaching their kids how, when, and why to say thank you but could be doing more to help their children better connect their experiences and the positive feelings they have about those experiences to independently in all of the four parts to gratitude:
- What things people notice in their lives that they can be grateful for.
- How people think about why they have been given those things.
- How people feel about the things they’re given.
- What people do to express their gratitude for those things.
You can ask your children different questions in each of the four categories to help kids connect what they’ve been given, what they think about the things they’ve been given, how they feel about being given those things, and what they can do to show their appreciation. Here are some questions in each category you can ask your children when they’re given a gift or to help them express gratitude for their life:
- What have you been given recently?
- What do you have in your life that you’re grateful for?
- Are their gifts behind the material gifts that you’re grateful for, like that someone is thinking of you or cares about you?
- Why do you think you received a gift?
- Do you think you should give something in return?
- Do you think you did something to earn the gift?
- Do you think the giver had to give you that gift?
When you or your kids answer no to these questions, you’re more likely to be thankful.
- How did you feel when you got this gift?
- Did you feel happy?
- What about the gift makes you happy?
- Is there a way you can show how happy you are to have this gift?
- Does the feeling you have about this gift make you want to share that feeling and give to someone else?
- Would it make you happy to thank the giver?
Instill Thankfulness Habits With the Family
At Thanksgiving, you and your family may already have a tradition to go around the table and have everyone say one thing they’re grateful for. But you can also make this tradition a regular habit to better instill thankfulness in your children and encourage them to regularly show gratitude for what they have. Here are some gratitude routines you and your family can establish:
- Every night at dinner, everyone can go around and talk about one thing they’re grateful for from the day.
- When you tuck your kids in at night, you can share a few things you’re thankful for.
- Have everyone write a gratitude note for someone else in the family once a week.
- On Sunday, everyone can share one thing they plan to show gratitude for during the upcoming week.
Encourage Acts of Kindness
Have your children do more than just say thank you to help them get in the habit of practicing the “do” portion of gratitude. Whether they’re given a gift, have a positive experience with someone, or just want to be selfless, here are some acts of kindness they can do (and you can help with, too!):
- Volunteering in the community.
- Doing chores when not asked.
- Helping parents, siblings, and other family members with tasks.
- Sharing a toy with a friend.
- Giving a gift or thank-you note to their gift-giver.
Promote the Glass-Half-Full Mentality
Being optimistic can make it easier to identify the gifts you’ve been given and the blessings in your life, which can help you be more grateful. That’s why it’s important to help your children have a glass-half-full mentality, one that’s more positive about life. And when things get tough for them or your family, you both can practice finding the silver lining through an optimistic, glass-half-full mentality. That way your kids can find and show gratitude for the things they’re thankful for, shifting their focus to something more positive.
Be a Role Model For Thankfulness
Kids learn by watching others, especially their parents, so one of the best ways you can instill thankfulness in your children is by being thankful yourself. Here are some common tasks you can do to find and show gratitude in your everyday life and model thankfulness:
- Send thank-you notes or gifts.
- Say “thank you” often, especially to your children, partner, and other family members.
- Do a chore without being asked.
- Tell your children what you’re grateful for, even if you’ve had a bad day.
At Crème de la Crème, we know how important it is for your children to learn gratitude both inside and outside the home. That’s why our teachers use a whole-child approach in the classroom and work hard to instill the positive qualities you want your children to develop as they grow. Contact your local school to learn more about how our enrichment classes and curriculum help your kids thrive.