Does your child say thank you when they receive a gift or someone does something nice for them? Or do they complain that it wasn’t what they wanted or say nothing at all? Thankfulness is a common topic in schools and at home this time of the year, but being grateful shouldn’t be something you discuss only during the holidays. A child will never learn the true value of being grateful if it is not reinforced throughout the year. Keep in mind that gratefulness isn’t a skill people have when they are born, so a child’s ability to count their blessings must be taught and nurtured.
Benefits of Being Grateful
In addition to having good manners, children and adults who frequently feel grateful experience numerous benefits. As reported by Melinda Beck in The Wall Street Journal, recent studies have shown that kids who are grateful “tend to be less materialistic, get better grades, set higher goals, complain of fewer headaches and stomach aches and feel more satisfied with their friends, families, and schools” than kids who are not grateful. These findings are great indicators of how important it is to teach children to be grateful, especially since many of the benefits children gain from being grateful carry over into adulthood. In her Wall Street Journal article, Beck also shares how being grateful can positively influence an adult’s health, relationships, and overall success due to the following factors:
- Grateful adults generally feel happier and have increased energy, optimism, and social connections.
- They also have a lesser chance of becoming depressed, envious, greedy, or dependent on alcoholic beverages.
- In addition to these benefits, grateful adults have higher incomes, sleep better, exercise more often, and have better immune systems.
These scientific findings prove that knowing how to say a sincere thank you and being grateful for what you have can positively impact every aspect of your life as a child and as an adult.
Raising a Grateful Child
Helping kids understand the concept of being grateful will be something you need to reinforce through constant practice and nurturing. Children who are young or very shy may be especially reluctant to share their gratitude, which may be frustrating for parents. If children don’t express their thanks when appropriate, say it for them. As you teach children about gratitude, be patient and remember that being grateful is something that both children and adults have difficulty in mastering. Here are five great tips you can use to encourage and teach gratitude in your family:
1. Be a good role model for your kids. Children learn by example, so make sure you are making an effort to be grateful in your own life. Try to think and talk positively about difficult situations and people you may not like.
2. Practice being grateful as a family. Take time to discuss what each person in the family is grateful for daily or weekly. This is a great reminder of what individual family members and the family as a whole can be thankful for throughout the year.
3. Teach children the value of a sincere thank you. Knowing how to express a sincere thank you will help children make an impression now and in the future. People want to be appreciated for what they do, and acknowledging even the simplest things will help people think more positively of a person.
4. Find alternative ways for children to say thank you. Try to come up with creative and engaging ways to help encourage children to say thank you. Have them draw pictures or do a craft to give someone as a thank you, for example, or teach them to say thank you in sign language or another language.
5. Provide opportunities for children to practice and learn about being grateful. A few of the toys children play with and the books they read should promote thankfulness in some way. Greta the Grateful Goldfish is one example of a children’s book that helps kids learn about being grateful. Also encourage children to say thank you when they pretend play or ask if their favorite toys and stuffed animals know how to say thank you.
Gratitude helps foster charity, so encourage children to give back as you teach them about gratitude. Be on the lookout for our upcoming blog post about teaching children the importance of giving back. We hope you and your family have a happy Thanksgiving!
Beck, Melinda. “Thank You. No, Thank You.” The Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones & Company, Inc., 23 Nov. 2010. Web. 31 Oct. 2013.