Children have a lot of things to learn from academics to extracurricular activities to life skills. It can feel like you are constantly in an upward battle as you try to make room for all of the lessons. You’ll be happy to know, however, that teaching kids gratitude doesn’t involve math equations or spelling tests! Helping your child practice being grateful is downright enjoyable and it can be the perfect excuse to get the whole family in on the action. Developing an attitude of gratitude is possible for any child.
Here are our top 10 tips for raising grateful kids:
1. Provide understanding of the words "please" and "thank you"
This is a lesson that most parents teach, of course. Manners are a sign of kindness and respect. Rather than just being empty expressions, you can make sure that your child understands why they say "please" and "thank you," and make doing so a habit. The word "please" is a simple way to soften a request and make the statement sound less demanding.
Expressing gratefulness by saying "thank you" is a powerful way to show another person that you value them. By teaching your child the meaning behind the words, you help them make a big shift. They switch from doing what they are told to do to actually understanding why it's an important practice, and doing it from their heart.
2. Practice gratitude as a daily family activity
The dinner table is a wonderful place to build an attitude of gratitude as a famly. You can deepen appreciation in your family every day by taking turns and sharing one thing you're grateful for. It doesn’t need to be anything deep or profound, necessarily. Maybe you’re grateful for the rain after a particularly hot day. Perhaps your child is grateful for the extra cookie you packed in their lunch. Maybe your spouse is grateful for encountering less traffic on their route home.
When gratitude is turned into family practice, it has the ability to transform your family in ways you didn't know were possible. You can embed a family gratitude practice into your day by finding the time that works best for you. A nice time to try to implement this practice may be during dinner or before bed.
3. Let your child choose what they are grateful for
This goes with the above tip, naturally. Gratitude is a practice, and deepening that practice requires your child's own higher thinking. Telling a child what to be grateful for doesn't build gratitude within in the same way it does when they can choose for themselves. Allow your child to choose what they are grateful for.
Though their selection may sometimes seem a bit silly to you (cue the worm they saw on the playground), it's truly special because they have chosen it. Be mindful of welcoming their shared gratitude with enthusiasm and appreciation of your own for their perspective. "That worm really brightened your day and made you feel grateful. I'm so glad. Thank you for sharing!" Your child will gradually learn what being grateful means in a bigger way as they get older and start to be grateful for more “important” things-- those things that can often be taken for granted.
4. Promote and encourage random acts of kindness
Random acts of kindness are perfect for teaching kids gratitude! Perhaps you can try to “pay it forward” by paying for the person’s food behind you in line. Or, you could rake your neighbor's leaves while they are away as a surprise. Maybe you can drop off some delicious bakery cookies at the fire station, or offer to help a neighbor carry in their groceries. Whatever your child wants to do with you as a random act of kindness will help them learn gratitude.
Through a random act of kindness, your child is provided with an opportunity to learn to not only be grateful for getting, but also to be grateful for giving.
5. Teach why gratitude matters
A child can’t be grateful if they don’t understand what gratitude is and why it matters. Take the time to teach your child, using kid-oriented tools, to explain gratitude to them. The more that a child understands gratitude, the more they can enhance their practice. You can share that gratitude is taking a brief moment to pause, notice, and appreciate the little things. There are endless reasons to be grateful like having electricity, running water, a home with air conditioning or heat, food, clean water to drink, and family.
6. Use printables and journals as learning tools
In teaching kids to be grateful, remind yourself that you don't have to do it alone. There are all sorts of learning tools and resources that will help you to teach gratitude in a kid-friendly manner; coloring books, activity worksheets, card games, and even picture books. Gratitude journals are a great tool to help children along on their journey. Our upcoming book, Kids Create the Change, offers tons of lessons and activities that all lead a child toward living a more intentional and grateful life. Sign up for our email list here.
You can also implement other gratitude activities, such as making a gratitude tree or placing reasons to be thankful in a gratitude jar.
7. Make "thank you" notes habitual
As old-fashioned as it seems, encouraging a child to write their own thank you notes for birthday gifts, holidays, and even non-materialistic reasons will help them to express and understand gratitude. You can make it fun by allowing your child to design and create a card before writing a special note of appreciation. Take a few moments after to remind your child how special it is to show our appreciation to someone else.
To be really consistent, try to set up a time each week to spend just fifteen to thirty minutes writing a card. At the end of the year, this will provide 52 opportunities to put gratitude into action.
8. Encourage open gratitude expressions
Try to allow your child to express their thanks for something or someone however they feel is best, too. Gratitude isn't just expressed in spoken words or notes. Your child may wish to gift one of their personal items, bake cookies, create a song, or have an out-of-the-box way to show their gratitude. By allowing your child the freedom to express their gratefulness openly in their own unique way, you add fun to their practice. Expressing gratitude will become more natural for kids that are able to do so openly.
9. Appreciate their attempts
With life and with gratefulness, we won't get things right every time. Sometimes your child will swing and miss in trying to show their appreciation. Maybe the recipient doesn't react in the way they anticipated, or your child becomes embarrassed. This can feel like a disappointment to your child who had their heart in the right place. Remember to appreciate the attempt and the process along the way, rather than the result. "Wow, you really took your time making this card so special. I love how you made it so colorful and wrote a message from your heart."
10. Be a gratitude role model
Grateful parents are able to raise grateful kids. Being a great gratitude role model is an important step (maybe the most important step of all) in instilling gratefulness in your children. Be mindful of sharing small moments you are grateful for out loud as they come up. "I'm so thankful to have this cold drink of water right now. It's just what I needed." Express gratefulness to others, including your child, intentionally. Thank cashiers, stock clerks, mailmen, and servers. Write "thank you" notes of your own for the small things. Perhaps someone's compliment brightened your day, or you received great advice from a friend.
Thank your child for the small things they do that can be taken for granted. "Thank you for holding that door for me, buddy. That really helped me carry the groceries in." Being a gratitude role model also gives you more to be grateful for yourself, which is an awesome bonus!
Even with all of the other things they have to learn, gratitude for kids is going to be one of the best tasks and tools you can give them. Gratitude teaches children to be kinder, more respectful, and even happier both now and in the future. What did you think of our kid’s gratitude tips?