Ways to Foster Gratitude in Young Children
With the holiday season rapidly approaching, November is an excellent month to stress the character trait of being thankful to children. Thankfulness is often a tricky concept for a child to understand, but with some simple steps parents help children understand the importance of being thankful.
The following article by Jeffrey Frosh and Giacomo Bono may help parents understand some of the fundamentals of teaching thankfulness to young children.
Be a role model
Children want to be like their parents. Parents provide the blueprint for what a child says and does and in what contexts. Expressing gratitude through words, writing, and small gifts or acts of reciprocity are all wonderful ways to teach children how to become grateful.
Thank your children when they do something kind or good.
Whenever your child does something nice for someone else, take the time to thank them. Everyone feels better when someone thanks them-even your child.
Have kids help. It happens to all of us: You give your child a chore, but it’s too agonizing watching him a) take forever to clear the table or b) make a huge mess mixing the pancake batter. The temptation is always to step in and do it yourself. But the more you do for them, the less they appreciate your efforts. (Don’t you feel more empathy for people who work outside on cold days when you’ve just been out shoveling snow yourself?) By participating in simple household chores like feeding the dog or stacking dirty dishes on the counter, kids realize that all these things take effort.
Find a goodwill project.
Plan a way your child can actively participate in helping someone else- even if it’s as simple as making cupcakes for a sick neighbor. As you’re stirring the batter or adding sprinkles explain to the child you are making something for someone to make them feel happy. When your child sees you giving to others, it inspires them to do the same.
Insist on thank-you notes.
The simple act of taking the time to write a thank you note (or draw a picture) is not only good manners, but teaches your child the importance of thanking someone for doing something nice for them.
Be patient. You can’t expect gratitude to develop overnight — it requires weeks, months, even years of reinforcement, but it is worth all the time a parent has invested in helping their child develop this important character trait.