Gratitude is an attitude that every child can adopt. Of course, we want our children to not take things or people for granted. We want them to be appreciative for what they have. We want them to stop asking for more so often. There are some other important reasons children should learn to have an attitude of gratitude at a younger age. Appreciation is a building block to healthy relationships. It allows for empathy. And, a child's level of happiness is directly impacted by their level of gratitude. This last point is what we will cover here. How can a child really obtain true and lasting happiness? You may be surprised by the answer.
The "Things Bring Happiness" Cycle
Children have a tendency to believe that they need the latest and greatest to be happy. A friend has the newest popular toy, and a child's instant thought is by having that same toy they will be happy. A classmate wears the coolest shoes, and a child's thought is that by having cool shoes they will be cooler and ultimately happier. A playmate shows them the latest video game, and a child's thought is by having that game they will have fun and be happy. Here's the thing- anything materialistic can only bring temporary happiness. The initial elation wears off and that cool thing just becomes another thing that has no bearing on their level of true joy.
Why the Cycle is Vicious
When an item is purchased, there's an initial moment of appreciation for it. That gratitude is what brings a feeling of happiness. It's why there's a misconception that things bring joy. Joy happens initially, but it's not due to the item itself. It's due to our level of admiration for it. Naturally though, over time that appreciation for the item wears off. The conscious thoughts of it and gratitude for it fade away. And, this causes a shift in focus, loss of happiness, and eagerness to search out the next thing to bring back those happy feelings. Allowing ourselves to believe that anything materialistic can bring true joy is a vicious cycle of elation and disappointment. It's one we must stop in it's track for our children. It's one that we even must break out of ourselves at times.
How to Break from the Cycle
The truth is that we already have what we need- and more. Wait- if that's so, why doesn't it feel that way? Why do children not find the happiness in what they already have?Unless an intentional effort is made daily to be grateful for what is already present in our lives, we will overlook the abundance. Being grateful is an undeveloped skill for most, but it doesn't have to be. Absolutely anyone can master the gift of gratitude. This is an emotional skill that is essential for children of any age to develop to break out of the "things bring happiness" cycle. At the very start of a gratitude practice, your child should notice a bump in their level of happiness. And, as they continue practicing and progressing, that bump strengthens and transforms their life into one of natural happiness.
The "Three Good Things" Exercise
Your child has hundreds of reasons to be grateful that are likely being overlooked. The "Three Good Things" exercise is done for a few minutes each day with the intention of making it a habit. It's simple but yet so fulfilling. Here's how it works:
1. Before your children go to bed each night, sit with them and reflect on their day.
2. Have them recall three things that made them grateful. It could be something that went well, something they learned, an ability they gained, a sense they used, a characteristic they have, a friend they made, a snack they enjoyed- literally, it's any three things they choose.
3. Have them write those three things down. By putting it down on paper, they are further solidifying their gratitude. It also allows them to look back on all the reasons they have to be grateful on the hard days.
That's it- it's really as simple as that. You will be amazed as you observe your child transform into a consciously abundant little being as they continue this habit. And, while you are at it- why not take on the habit yourself? You deserve the same feeling of happiness and fulfillment and can gain it with this exercise.
Print endless copies of our "Three Good Things" printable for your child and yourself! Keep the completed pages in a folder. And, on those hard days, look back at all the reasons you have to be grateful for what is instead of what isn't.
Just Be Grateful
There are hundreds upon hundreds of reasons to be grateful that easily get overlooked. Here are some reasons for gratitude to get your child started. Read each item on the list to your child and ask why they should be grateful for it.
1. Being able to taste food
2. Eating your favorite meal
3. Eating ice cream on a hot day
4. Enjoying a hot chocolate on a cold day
5. Having a cool drink after doing exercises
6. Smelling your favorite flower
7. The scent of fresh cookies baking in the oven
8. Your mom or dad's amazing hugs
9. Snuggling with your favorite stuffed animal
10. Holding your mom's hand as you cross a busy street
11. Having parents that keep you safe
12. Having a home to live in
13. Listening to your favorite song
14. Singing along with your friends
15. Hearing your mom or dad say, "I love you"
16. Hearing your mom or dad say, "It's okay" when you make a mistake
17. Hearing your teacher say you did a great job
18. Having hands that give you abilities to write, play and eat
19. Having feet that allow you to jump, play and run
20. Having friends you enjoy spending time with
21. Spending quality time with your family
22. Wrapping a warm blanket around you when you are cold
23. Reading your favorite book
24. Blowing bubbles
25. Playing at recess with friends
26. Seeing your mom or dad at the end of a school day
27. The great feeling that comes from learning something new
28. Seeing someone smile at you
29. Helping a friend
30. Being helped by someone when you need it
31. Playing with your favorite toy
32. Being creative and using your imagination
33. Having people that love you
34. Going on adventures
35. Trying a new activity
36. Making a mistake and learning from it
37. Having clothes to wear every day
38. Having food to eat each day
39. Doing your favorite thing
40. Going to your favorite place
41. When someone shares with you
42. When someone surprises you
43. Dancing with your friends
44. Seeing a beautiful rainbow
45. Being outdoors
46. Having awesome talents
47. Learning a new skill
48. Seeing the sun shine after a rainstorm
49. Loving who you are
50. Being free to be you
Another Free Printable
The 50 Reasons to be Grateful are included on a 5 page printable. This printable is a great way to discuss many reasons for gratitude that may be overlooked. It opens up a conversation with the intention to build gratitude and overall happiness. Simply review the list one by one with your child and ask what they appreciate about each item on the list. It's a great way to kick off the "Three Good Things" daily gratitude practice.