Science has spoken: grateful people are joyful people.
My husband heard this on NPR, along with some tips on cultivating gratitude in your own life. He thought about his upbringing and how helpful it would have been for his own discontentment, especially around times of gifting, and wondered if the practice was gratitude was something we could model for our children.
I think most parents want to raise grateful children…we’ve all felt the embarrassment of a toy aisle tantrum or during the holidays when a child announces their disgust with an undesired gift. Although the adage “Kids will be kids” aptly applies here, there are ways to help set up our children for success. Here are some ways we have tried to cultivate gratitude in our three small children.
- We emphasize the importance of saying, “Thank you.” We also make sure we as parents say thank you to them when they help us.
- Writing “Thank you” cards. My children are still pretty small for penning notes of gratitude, but I help my oldest spell, “Thank you” and then have him draw a picture for someone who has given them a gift or helped them. I also want to model this for my children by allowing them to see me writing “Thank you” cards when someone blesses us.
- What are you thankful for today? Every night at dinner, each of us says three things we are grateful for that day. Sometimes my kids are stubborn and need a little help. It’s times like these that my husband and I try to be silly, saying things like, “You’re right. You have nothing to be thankful for… too bad you don’t have legs!” That usually lightens the mood and then they think of plenty of things to be thankful for.
- Making sure they know our lifestyle isn't shared by everyone. I think it’s easy for us to notice those who have more than us…it’s definitely my natural inclination to see the family with the nicer minivan or the larger house. But serving those who have less than us, or being sure my children’s friend groups include children with different socioeconomic statuses can offer healthy perspective.
- Sponsor a child. There are tons of sponsorship programs for children in countries all over the world. We personally sponsor two children through Compassion International. We exchange letters with our Compassion children and talk about them when we donate extra money for birthday gifts.
These are a few tangible ways to cultivate gratitude in your children. Is there anything you would add?
Kara Garis is a cloth diapering, baby wearing, semi-crunchy mama to two active boys and a baby girl. She lives with her husband in Oklahoma and loves running, cooking, traveling, reading and teaching herself how to braid. She blogs at karagaris.com.