Raising grateful children is one of the best things you can do for your children’s emotional and social well-being. Being grateful shifts a person’s perspective of life from what they lack to all that they already have. People who give thanks as a regular part of their lives are happier and more resilient. They are healthier and less stressed.
counting your blessings,
noticing simple pleasures
and acknowledging everything you receive.
Raising Grateful Children Project
The gratefulness that enhances your life is more than just saying ‘thank you’. Researchers in the Raising Grateful Children project at UNC Chapel Hill found that gratitude has four parts.
What we notice in our lives for which we can be grateful
How we think about why we have been given things.
How do we feel about the things we have been given
What we do to express appreciation in turn
The ability to engage in all four parts is a part of maturity and not all people ever learn them. It is possible to lead your children into engaging in these parts and over time the parts will be integrated into their perspective of life.
Essentially you find ways to help your child to more deeply notice what they have received and then guide them into making sense of those gifts, through their thoughts and emotions.
Ideas for Raising Grateful Children
You have to show them how!
You must model gratefulness because if you don’t practice it you can’t teach it. It is never too late for you to cultivate this habit. I have a great blog on developing a grateful mindset.
You begin by being grateful out loud in front of your children.
Wasn’t it so nice that Nana and Pop helped us today, it sure made the job easier?
Don’t you just love spending time at the park as a family?
Isn’t Zoey a funny dog? She makes me laugh when she plays with her ball.
Oh look it snowed! We are going to have a really fun day making snowmen.
They need to hear you say thank you to other people and to them.
Establish a gratefulness ritual at night.
Along with your other bedtime activities – stories, songs, or prayers add a short time of sharing one thing they are glad happened that day.
Establish a weekly gratefulness journal activity.
Get your child a blank paged notebook. Let them decorate the outside and then once a week or so take time for them to either draw or write about something they are grateful for. You might join them in this with a journal of your own.
Start a habit of noticing what is around you.
This could be noticing beautiful, interesting, or funny things in nature. It can be a simple as pointing out something that is around you or making it a game to find something in nature.
Shapes in clouds
Listening to nature – what do you hear? Birds, squirrels, dogs, frogs
Find 3 pretty rocks, leaves, bugs
It could be happy or fun situations or people in your life.
Funny show on TV
A book you enjoyed
A visit for a family member or friend
Begin a mealtime practice of sharing something you are grateful for.
Let the adults model this. Don’t hesitate to give prompts to your children as you begin this.
Teach them to show appreciation by saying ‘thank you’ and ‘you are welcome’.
Children need to be taught when this is appropriate, hopefully, in time the thanks will be heartfelt.
Be aware of opportunities to teach the 4 parts of gratefulness.
You can ask questions like:
What have you been given or what do you already have in your life that you are grateful for? NOTICE
Why do you think you were given this gift? THINK
Does it make you feel happy to get this gift? What does it feel like inside? FEEL
Is there a way you want to show how you feel about this gift? DO
The researchers believe that these types of questions can help children to more deeply receive gifts from others or notice what they already have and in turn, may motivate acts of gratitude toward others.
Kid-sized gratefulness practices and modeling thankfulness are big ways of raising grateful children. Those activities can cement appreciation in their everyday life. As these things become part of your routine they also become part of your and your children’s perspective on life.
If you enjoyed learning about raising children that are grateful, you will enjoy my blogs
on helping your child have positive self-talk