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Most people associate gratitude with holidays such as Thanksgiving or Christmas. And those are both excellent times to reflect on everything we’re grateful for. But there’s actually a lot more to gratitude than that. Gratitude is more than learning to say “thank you,” and repaying debts.
Gratitude is an exercise that should be performed daily. Having an attitude of gratitude means being able to see the good all around, even when experiencing difficult times and facing impossible challenges. Dr. Neel Burton, author of a Psychology Today article, The Psychology of Gratitude, stated that an attitude of gratitude is understanding that good things can come from unexpected circumstances. Situations that are entirely out of our control.
Understanding all of that makes raising children with an attitude of gratitude more challenging than ever. Fortunately, there are small steps that can be taken at early ages to help get children on a path of gratitude. Listed below are six ways parents can cultivate the attitude of gratitude in their children.
It goes without saying that children learn behaviors from their full time caregivers. Being mindful about what is said in front of them is one step toward raising a child with an attitude of gratitude. Don’t over or underestimate what your children understand. It’s easy to get frustrated with your spouse or significant other for not taking out the trash or loading the dishwasher. When they finally do get around to doing it, the temptation to refrain from making snarky comments like, “It took you long enough,” can be difficult to resist.
RESIST! Instead of making snarky commentary, pause. Consider saying something like, “I really appreciate that you took the time to do that.” Doing this not only makes you a positive role model for your children, but it can also help foster a healthy relationship with your spouse or significant other.
READ MORE: A JOURNEY TO HEALTH AND WELLNESS
2. JOY JAR
Every evening, have the kids tell you about their day. Ask them questions about things that made them happy or fun experiences. For each experience they give, have them place a coin into a Joy Jar. At the end of the month, the jar can serve as a visual aid for all of the blessings they’ve experienced. And while money can’t buy happiness; it can be the answer to someone else’s prayers. Choose a charity to donate the money to and let your children know they’ve just become a blessing in someone else’s life.
3. THE ATTITUDE OF GRATITUDE – OTHER DAILY EXERCISES
Pinterest is an excellent source for finding gratitude worksheets for kids. If you’re like me, and need an printout to guide you, check out some of these boards.
For older kids, gratitude journals can be found on both Pinterest as well as Amazon. Make it a habit for you and your kids to sit down at least once per week and write about the experiences and people they are thankful for. This is particularly important if your kids are having a difficult time in school.
On the days they come home unhappy or stressed out, sit them down and make them write down all of the good things that happened that day. It could be something as simple as the cafeteria serving their favorite pudding. When you have them talk about what went wrong that day, ask them what they learned from the experience and what they can do differently next time.
READ MORE: DEVELOPING A GROWTH MINDEST IN YOUR CHILD
4. THANK YOU CARDS
For most people, sending out Thank You cards is a lost art. Maybe it’s time to reinstate the tradition. Sending Thank You cards isn’t about fulfilling an obligation. It’s really about the person receiving the card. How much time they spent picking out a gift, standing in line to purchase the gift, and then even standing in line to mail the gift is something the sender did while juggling a million other tasks. Tell your kids to think about all the joy they felt when they received the gift. Wouldn’t they want the person who sent it to feel the same?
Nancy Leigh DeMoss wrote in her book, Choosing Gratitude, about one of the ways she uses thank you cards in her every day life. She keeps a stack of them on hand and whenever she encounters someone who made her day a little brighter, she sends them a thank you card. Is there a teacher or mentor who makes your child’s day a little brighter? Sit down with your kids and have them write out a quick note. Smaller kids can color a picture and send that with a note.
READ MORE: A BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO MANNERS: THANK YOU NOTES
5. READ ABOUT KIDS WITH AN ATTITUDE OF GRATITUDE
One thing is a guaranteed: When trying to explain gratitude to young children, parents will be overwhelmed with questions. Books like Mateo Finds His Wow, Grow Grateful, and The Other Side are excellent starting points to help your children understand the true meaning of gratitude.
READ MORE: HOW TO MAKE READING FUN FOR KIDS
Participating in charities is another step toward raising kids with an attitude of gratitude. This suggestion is courtesy of one of the mentor moms in my M.O.P.S group who, during a discussion on gratitude, said that she took her kids with her on mission trips so they could see first hand the challenges people in other countries are faced with day to day. She also suggested for those of us who couldn’t participate in mission trips, that we sit down and watch documentaries with our children.
Common Sense Media has a number of documentaries for children to watch with parents, along with the recommended ages for each documentary. Listed below are a few of the documentaries they suggested. Due to the graphic content some documentaries air, it’s recommended parents watch these documentaries first, before showing them to children.
- A Place at the Table
- The Dream is Now
Other organizations that provide volunteer roles for children include Habitat for Humanity which has opportunities for children as young as five. Boy Scouts of America and Girl Scouts also offer many opportunities for children to participate in charities.
Sittercity.com has listed a number of family volunteer opportunities that include adopting a family for the holidays.
READ MORE: KID FRIENDLY SERVICE PROJECTS FOR THE HOLIDAYS
Raising children with an attitude of gratitude is one of the best gifts parents can give their children. Studies such as the ones referenced by Amy Morin in her Psychology Today article, 7 Scientifically Proven Benefits of Gratitude has shown that adults who are able to achieve this mindset are healthier, happier individuals. Parents can’t go wrong by raising children to have an attitude of gratitude.
WANT TO READ MORE?
Check out this article on USING THE FIVE LOVE LANGUAGES WITH YOUR CHILDREN.
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Sources: 7 Scientifically Proven Benefits of Gratitude
The Psychology of Gratitude Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to Joy
Photo Credits: Unsplash.com and Pixabay.com