How to Cultivate an Attitude of Gratitude in Kids
A gratitude mindset involves regularly making the shift from disappointment and expectation to appreciation and thankfulness. And, research shows the earlier a gratitude mindset is instilled, the happier and more resilient we are as adults. And being thankful increases empathy, improves health overall, improves relationships and makes for more restful sleep.
As sweet and innocent kids are, they’re always looking at you for clues on how to interpret their world. The influence you have makes it even more urgent for you to cultivate your own gratitude habits. Kids do and say what they hear their parents do and say. If you’re grumbling, frustrated, or complaining, so are your kids. If you’re having a hard time seeing the good, they won’t see it either. Start by pointing out positive things you see your family members doing. Share some good things that happened at work, or even at the store. Look for and share positive news stories, like the ones on sites like this…. tankgoodnews.com
Now after your wonderful, consistent example, let’s find ways for our kids to notice and share their gratitude..
- Thank you boxes, bags or jars. When my kids were young, I gave them each a beautiful box with precut cards and a special pen. Before bed they wrote prayers or something they were thankful for, on the cards and placed them in the box for safe keeping and privacy. Occasionally, we’d sit together and review them, thankful for the good things in our lives and prayers answered. There are endless ways to make this work for your family.
- Help Someone Else. When we volunteer, we reach past the confines of self, to caring more about the people and world around us. Always a good thing. Have kids start by doing things for the family, separate from their chores. Look around the neighborhood for who might need help. Cut the neighbor’s grass. Rake leaves. Shovel snow. Carry in the groceries. Look for people or events in the community that need volunteer help.
- Donate toys and clothes. Before big holidays, help your kids sort through their toys, making a pile to keep, a pile to throw away and a pile of toys to give away. I loved doing this with my kids because their rooms got cleaned, but mostly because I saw how good it made them feel when they choose what toys they would donate. Let them ride with for the donation drop off, when appropriate.
- Thank you cards. Sadly, writing thank you cards for gifts seems to be an antiquated custom, but there’s a lot to be said for the power of a handwritten note of appreciation. And it’s a practice that will serve them well into adulthood. In our house, once gifts are opened, thank you cards had to be written the very next day, before playing with the new toys and gifts.
- Take a thankful walk. I totally stole this idea from someone else because I LOVE it. We weren’t this cool with our kids, but I want to start with the grandkids now. The idea is, go for a walk with your child and point out things you see and appreciate. Thank you for the beautiful fall trees. Thank you for the stream. The birds. The beautiful blue sky. The much needed rain. Take time together to notice and appreciate what world outside feels, smells and sounds like.
- What I like about you. Every holiday when seated around the table, we take turns, young and old, sharing something we’re thankful for. We switch it for birthdays, sharing what we each like about the birthday girl or boy, mom or dad. And in our house, we can’t resist making an art project out of everything, so we draw it out too. You’ll be amazed at how thoughtful and insightful your kid’s comments can be, as they get used to doing this. And who doesn’t want to be the star of the show once in a while.