How can we teach our children to be grateful? Many of us struggle with this. I’m sharing my strategies for teaching gratitude at any age in this post. These strategies take little time to execute and are easy to start. Let’s work together to create an attitude of gratitude for everyone in our family.
How Early Can We Start?
Until our kids can speak, it’s up to us to use words of gratitude with them and model grateful behavior. Simple strategies include teaching them to sign thank-you. We can also express our gratitude to them directly: ‘I’m so grateful that you are my child,’ for example. How about starting a gratitude journal for your child? Write a few things every day that you are grateful for about them and this will also create a beautiful journal of their growth.
When our kids are comfortable using language, we can to teach them to say please and thank-you. It’s also a great time learn how to receive a compliment. Every notice how most kids are uncomfortable when given a compliment? Share with them that a compliment is a gift and it’s important to accept it with a thank-you. As parents, this is also a behavior that can be hard to model. We often brush off compliments or reply with ‘oh, it’s nothing,’ rather than accepting them.
Having a Daily Gratitude Practice
Before bed, ask them to share one thing from their day that they are grateful for, out loud. They may say the same thing every day, so encourage them to think of something different. We did this with our daughter as part of her bedtime routine from about the age of three.
As our kids get older and begin to write, there are few ways to record daily gratitude. When our daughter was 5, she was just learning to write. We used the pages from a Page-A-Day Calendar and wrote her daily gratitude on the back. We folded it and placed it into a Gratitude Jar (a large flower vase) and ended up filling three of them in the space of 12 months. At first, we wrote most of it for her and she would just write one or two words. By the time we got to the end of the year, she was writing them all by herself.
The other advantage of this is that it gives children a reason to write every day. When they are young and just learning to write, daily practice is essential, especially over the summer. By doing this practice with her that summer, she had confidence in her writing at the start of grade one.
Create a Gratitude Board
At the end of the year, what do we do with all of these pieces of paper? I had suggested burning them in the fireplace, but she had a better idea. We created a gratitude board, with at least one or two pages from each month of the year. We framed it and it’s hanging in her room. This project has stood the test of time and survived a cross-country move a few years. It still hangs in her bedroom today.
Advancing to a Gratitude Journal
Once our kids are comfortable writing one or two sentences, a gratitude journal is a great next step. This can be started at any age, so if you’ve got a teenager who could use a little bit of perspective, I highly recommend it. Take them shopping to find a journal they like, and buy a few different colored pens. Keep the journal by their bedside and make it a part of their bedtime routine. For an older child, work with them for the first few weeks to help them get into the habit. Then give them the space to be creative in their journal.
As parents, we can start this habit at the same time as our kids. It can be an excellent way to bond at the end of the day. Sitting together and sharing gratitude for the day is a perfect end to any day. My daughter and I write in our gratitude journals together every night. She’s almost 10 years old and it continues to be one of her favorite (and non-negotiable) parts of her bedtime routine.
Other Gratitude Strategies for Kids
Learning to give thanks before a meal or a snack is a great habit. Think about thanking those who helped create the meal. We can thank the farmers who grew the crops, the truck driver who transported it, the grocery store, the person who did the groceries and the person who prepared it. If you have access to a local Farmer’s Market, you can also express gratitude directly to the farmer who grew the food.
Gratitude is also very helpful when kids are going through difficult times. When we can help them to focus on a few things they are grateful for in the face of challenges at school or with friends, it really helps. My daughter was crying uncontrollably the other day, and I sat down in front of her and started to read out some of what she had written in her gratitude journal. I was amazed at how quickly it worked to calm her down!
Our Little Gratitude Ambassadors
When we take the time to include gratitude in our days our children become more grateful over time. It’s amazing to see how quickly their perspective can shift! Expressing gratitude for things we take for granted every day is a valuable life lesson. And you’ll soon find that they will be influencing others around them to be more grateful too.
I invite you to adopt one of these gratitude habits today. Keep it simple, find one that you can start immediately and go for it! Check back in with me in a few months, I’d love to hear how it’s all going. Did I miss any strategies that you’re using with your kids?