Yesterday I was speaking to a mum who wants her children to learn to be grateful.
Do you wish your children would be more thankful for presents – and all the other good things in their lives?
I find that most parents I speak with have gratitude and politeness high on their list of priorities – but they’re not sure how to help their children learn this.
Many of us find ourselves falling back on that little phrase: “Say thank you”. The things is, I’m not sure this actually teaches gratitude at all. I heard this phrase often as a child – and it left me feeling awkward and ungrateful.
So here are a few ideas for teaching appreciation and gratitude:
1) Model the behaviour you want your child to learn, while they are small (1-3 years). Toddlers are just getting to grips with language and how things work in the world. Saying ‘thank you’, ‘please’ and ‘sorry’ for them introduces them to our social expectations, without causing unnecessary stress or awkwardness.
2) Have a bedtime ritual of thinking of three things that happened on that day which your child is grateful for, or which they enjoyed. Examples could be: a fun time on the swing, a nice meal, a giggle on the sofa, the cat we stroked on the way to school. Appreciating the little things fosters an attitude of gratitude and amplifies joy in our lives!
3) Celebrate life’s little wins and successes. When you as a family celebrate achievements and things that turn out well, you teach your child to honour and appreciate everything that’s positive in your lives. Here are a few things you could celebrate: someone’s safe return home, a new job, a new home, a new school, a swimming badge, completing a project.
4) Plan joyful surprises for others. Honour the work of teachers with a present or thank grandparents with a card – these little gestures teach children the importance of acknowledging the richness that significant adults bring into their lives.
5) Appreciate our children! Let’s be grateful for the little things our children do to help and care for the family. Let’s thank them when they set the table, clear up the toys, show kindness to another child or wrap a gift. Showing appreciation and gratitude is very different from praise, which can be manipulative. By being appreciated, children learn to appreciate others.
I have found that these 5 wonderful habits amplify joy in our lives and teach gratitude at the same time!
And remember, learning gratitude takes time. So take heart if your children don’t turn into models of politeness overnight! It’s only natural for abilities to take time to develop.
Genuine appreciation for the wonderful things and people in our lives is a deep and beautiful thing – it can’t be developed in a hurry.
An authentic and spontaneous “thank you” from a child is one of the sweetest sounds I know – and definitely worth waiting for!
And, in case you still have a concern that your child may forget to thank a family member for a present, this tip may help: From the age of 4 years up, give your child a very quiet and discreet reminder to express their thanks, just before the event at which the “thank you” will be required!
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