6 Ways to Teach Your Children Gratitude: The Key to Happier Kids
Your children shuffle in the door after school. They leave their name-brand shoes in the foyer and toss their backpacks on the table. They groan when you offer them an afternoon snack, disappointed that it’s not their favorite. Then they go into their rooms and play video games online with their friends, taking for granted the modern comforts and technology that have been around for only a tiny sliver of human history.
Does this sound familiar? If you’re a parent, you likely know this scenario all too well.
If this behavior irks you, it’s likely because you’d love for your child to show more appreciation for their day-to-day blessings. Would you like to shift their mindset? Keep reading to learn how to teach your children gratitude and help their happiness grow!
Why Is It So Important to Teach Children Gratitude?
Learning to practice gratitude is essential for adults and children alike. Studies show a strong link between gratitude and happiness, even in children as young as five. When children learn to approach the world with an appreciative outlook, they tend to be happier and more optimistic. This positive outlook helps them thrive in their school and communities. And as children grow into young adults, the habit of thankfulness can shield them from depression and anxiety, allowing them to lead fulfilling and productive lives.
How Do I Teach My Children Gratitude?
Do you want to teach your children how to live with more appreciation but need help figuring out where to start? Here are six simple ways to help your kids cultivate a habit of gratitude.
1. Model Gratitude
First and foremost, your child can learn gratitude by seeing how you and other caregivers practice it. Make a habit of expressing thankfulness throughout the day in your child’s presence. Honor when a family member does something nice, or thank the bagger who takes your groceries to your car. The more you model gratitude in everyday situations, the more your child will take notice and learn to express appreciation, too.
2. Help Them Practice Empathy
Another way to teach children gratitude is to practice empathy. Empathy is the ability to understand how someone else thinks and feels. Find opportunities to discuss what others might be feeling. Maybe the server at the restaurant has sore feet from a hard day’s work. Perhaps your child’s doctor feels concerned about her patients. Your child may realize through these conversations that other people are using their time and energy to help them, promoting a grateful heart for the helpers they encounter daily.
3. Encourage Your Child to Read More
Reading has many benefits for children. However, fiction books can help your child learn to appreciate the good parts of life. When you help them establish a reading habit, you give them access to virtually limitless opportunities to grow in empathy and gratitude through character study. For example, when your child encounters Harry Potter living in a cupboard under the stairs, they may gain more appreciation for their bedroom and loving family.
4. Learn About History with Them
When you teach your child about history, you can help them put their modern lifestyle and privileges into perspective. For example, your child will immediately notice the stark differences between their life today and the lives of Laura Ingalls Wilder or Anne Frank. Ask them thought-provoking questions: What would it be like to drive in a covered wagon instead of a car? How do they think Anne passed her time in hiding? What responsibilities did children have before that they may not have today? When you allow your child to imagine a life without so many of their favorite things, they will grow in appreciation for them.
5. Build Gratitude into Your Family Routines
As you and your child begin to practice gratitude, it will be easier to move other family members to grow in this practice. There are several ways to build appreciation into your family routines. Sharing what you’re most thankful for doesn’t just have to happen at the Thanksgiving table. Why not share gratitude every night at dinner? If extracurriculars or work schedules mean your family eats evening meals at different times, you can find other moments during the day to squeeze in appreciation expressions. You may find you can discuss with your child what you’re thankful for every morning on the drive to school or reflect on the good parts of the day at bedtime. Find what works best for your family’s schedule!
6. Help Them Start a Gratitude Journal
As your child ages, they may become less willing to share all their thoughts with you, and their busy schedules might disrupt family routines. If your child can journal about gratitude independently, they will have a habit that benefits them throughout their life. Let them pick out a notebook in their favorite style and color and personalize it. They can make collages, write lists, or draw the things they are grateful for daily.