As we are getting closer and closer to the season of giving and gratitude I figured it would be a good time to discuss how we cultivate gratitude with our children. Here are a few points to consider if you’re working toward establishing a better sense of gratitude in your family.
Gratitude is something that often needs to be taught. Some people are born naturally positive, grateful, big-hearted folks - and some just need a little help in recognizing how great gratitude feels. It is not necessarily a “character flaw” if your child is one who needs a little help in this arena. Instead of getting upset with their seemingly lack of appreciation, simply recognize this as an area that needs to grow for your child and start looking for ways to teach this concept.
Create opportunities for your kids to earn things they would like to have or do
Kids who get, have, or do everything they want without earning it have no reason to feel appreciative or grateful. They have a limited understanding of the time and money it takes for them to have that new set of Lego's or going to the latest movie and, therefore, may have a difficult time understanding the depths of gratitude they should have. Offering kids their own experiences to feel pride in earning something will also shift into a better perception for the gratitude they should have when something is given to them.
By having good boundaries and saying “No” to things your kids have not earned you will be naturally battling the concept of entitlement, which is the arch enemy of appreciation and gratitude.
Take it away
Sometimes kids need to learn the hard way. I know I certainly have a few who seem to prefer this method of learning at times! If kids are being actively unappreciative about something, then consider taking things away. For instance, if one of my teenagers is being rude and ungrateful while still expecting me to give them a ride, money for the movies or anything else, my best bet to teach them a lesson is to take away what they were getting or going to get. As humans we seem to appreciate things a lot more when they’re gone!
Talk about it
Have regular discussions with your kids - individually and as a family - about gratitude and appreciation. Discuss things you are grateful for and what life would be like without those were missing. Call on your children to really put some thought into what they feel grateful for, what’s important to them, and what goes into making those things possible. For example, if your kids enjoy their sports you could easily discuss the time contributed by coaches and other volunteers to make the teams and the games/tournaments happen.
Be a giver
Teaching kids to be a giver through practicing acts of service or kindness to others has a positive impact on their interpretation of what people give to them. They become more aware that everything they have and do comes from somewhere, which is the foundational understanding for why we need to be grateful.
Raising kids to not only be grateful, but openly display their gratitude, can be a growth process for many. As parents, we have to create a culture through role modeling, setting expectations, and practicing these skills for that growth to happen. It can be a long process, but in the end, well worth it!