Encouraging Daily Gratitude
Numerous scientific studies affirm the positive benefits of gratitude. Gratitude, which entails showing and feeling appreciation for the things in your life, can make children (and adults) feel happier, less disappointed, enjoy greater health, enjoy better relationships with family and peers and feel a greater sense of purpose. Gratitude is certainly one of the most essential values that loving parents can teach their children. Here are some tips on teaching gratitude to your child:
1. Teach The Value of “Thank You”
Teach your children to say ‘thank you’ beginning when they are young. Sometimes, you might have to explain to them why it is important to say “thank you”; you could tell them that showing gratitude when someone does something nice or goes out of their way is a great way of appreciating their effort. Keep reminding your children, especially the younger ones to say ‘thank you’ when it is required- through repetition and everyday practice, your children will internalize this simple but important habit of appreciating other people’s efforts.
2. Create Gratitude Rituals
Psychologists Dr. Michael E. McCullough of the University of Miami and Dr. Robert A. Emmons of the University of California recently conducted a study where some of the participants were asked to write down the thing they were happy for while another group wrote about the things they were unhappy about. Not surprisingly, those who wrote down what they were grateful for were found to have higher happiness levels throughout the entire duration of the study (one week) and these happiness levels continued for a month. A good way to deliberately foster an attitude of gratitude is to talk about the things that you are grateful for each day. Each family member, even the toddler should take turns to say at least three things that they are grateful for.
3. Remind Them of Reasons to be Grateful
While you do not want to threaten your kids with realities such as poverty, homelessness, or sickness, using these realities as a reference point can help your child appreciate the life he has. For example, if your children have the habit of whining about the food you serve at the dinner table, remind them that there are children and families who do not have food to eat. Knowing that they are not entitled to anything will help your children appreciate what they have in the present.
4. Teach Empathy
An effective way to teach gratitude is to show your children how to empathize with other people. For example, sensitize your children to the needs of others in the community and encourage them to donate toys, clothes, food and other items to help the needy. If you have toddlers, engage in a small project that will help another person. For older children, support them with volunteer work and community activities that enable them to help others.
5. Model Gratitude
Be sure to deliberately model gratefulness in your day-to-day life. Your children always learn from you. Tell them “thank you” often when they do something great. Notice their own efforts at showing gratitude, by saying something like, “Johnny, I am so happy that you are learning how to appreciate the rest of the family members. Thank you so much.” In addition to showing gratitude for the good things, try to deal with the not so good things with a more positive attitude. Being appreciative is also about facing hardship with a determined optimism, a value that your children will learn and use throughout their life.