“It’s not happiness that brings us gratitude. It’s gratitude that brings us happiness.”
One of the most important things to me as a father is raising children who understand and express gratitude.
From my experience grateful kids tend to be happier and less volatile when things don’t go their way. Which inevitably at some point in time, will occur.
But raising grateful children doesn’t happen by accident. You have to be intentional and consistent, especially living in a society where entitlement is commonplace.
Here’s six tips you can use to nurture grateful kids who love to express appreciation.
1.Count Your Blessings
Meal times are a great opportunity to count your blessings. After giving thanks for your food you can set aside time to go around the table to share what you’re grateful for that day.
This is great because it not only makes kids reflect on their day, but it also makes communication at meal time the norm instead of what sometimes happens – people’s’ heads being buried in their phones.
As an added bonus, make your kitchen table a phone-free zone. If your kids see that you respect and value meal time, so will they as they grow older.
2. Show Appreciation to Family Members
Dedicate one day of the week to ‘family appreciation day.’ This could mean a take-out night where everyone gets their favorite pizza or burgers. But, no cooking for mom or dad – just family time. And before eating, everyone shares at least one thing that they appreciate about each family member.
This may seem like a small thing, but it’s very easy to go days or even weeks without letting our kids know how much we appreciate them if we get caught up in the hustle of life. You’re laying the groundwork now so that your kids are mindful of expressing appreciation of family on a regular basis.
3. Take Time To Give
Teaching children to be cheerful givers is one of the best ways to encourage a sense of gratitude. Seeing other people in need can really put things in perspective and give you a greater appreciate for what you have.
There are endless opportunities to find ways to give. You can identify school outreach programs, charities, and your church. Find something that suits your family and that encourages gratitude. But, make sure your kids are an active part of the process.
To get your kids in the giving mindset, try reading “The Giving Tree,” by Shel Silverstein. This is a good opportunity for them to see the level of giving from the tree and how happy it was to give to the boy.
4. Acknowledge People Who Help Us Everyday
Some of our best opportunities to express gratitude are from paying attention to the people around us everyday. Make your children aware of the people who work to help their days flow smoother and safer in some way.
It’s easy to forget to show appreciation to the bus driver, even if it is mom! Don’t overlook the dedication of policeman, park attendants, city service workers and people at the daycare. They’re all people your kids see every day, and they’re perfect targets to express gratitude.
This is where you have to lead by example. Once your children observe you thanking people and showing appreciation, they’ll catch on. And if your child is shy, then encourage your kiddo to smile or give a thumbs up to show appreciation.
5. Start a Gratitude Book
I will let you know this method is hands down one of my favorite ways to help foster a sense of gratitude in my two boys. In full disclosure, I don’t use an actual book, but instead I use a note taking app, Evernote, so that I’m able to capture my boys expressions of gratitude wherever we are.
Here’s our system: At the end of each day, either at dinner or when I’m putting my boys to bed, they have to tell me three things they’re thankful for that day. They can’t repeat something they already said that week – so it forces them to be more reflective and not lazy with this exercise.
I write down what they say under their name in the section of my note taking app that I dedicate to gratitude. Then ever so often, I read them all of the things they’ve told me they’re grateful for.
It’s so awesome to do this because saying three things you’re grateful for each day quickly adds up to a massive list. And it allows your kids to see just how blessed they are.
If you want to add a twist on things from how I do it, have your kids write out their own grateful list each day if they’re old enough to write. And for your little ones with limited writing skills, have them draw pictures of what they’re grateful for.
6. Pull From the Gratitude Jar
Positive thinking helps encourage an attitude of gratitude. There’s always something to focus on to remind children that their lives are really full of goodness and kindness.
Place a jar in a visible place in your kitchen and fill it with grateful expressions on little slips of paper. Some expressions could be:
“I’m thankful for waking up this morning.”
“I’m grateful for my mom and dad”
“I’m happy that my daddy reads to me every night”
Fill the jar with as many expressions of gratitude as you and your kids can come up with. Then, make a habit of you and your children pulling a grateful expression from the jar each day and reading it aloud.
A Grateful Heart Is a Beginning for Greatness
If you implement some of these grateful tips, they can have an enormous impact on not only the happiness of your child, but also on your joy. Sharing what you’re grateful for has a habit of making you more grateful.
So, get in the habit of being grateful for everything and showing your child how to do the same. Then wait and see how much happier you’ll be.