Most parents—at one point or another—have thought, “how can I teach my children to be more grateful?” Unfortunately for parents, gratitude is not a natural behavior.
Yes, kids are born little stinkers.
And if you’re a parent, this means that it’s up to you to teach gratitude lessons to your kids. At first, teaching gratitude may seem a little daunting—but it’s worth it. In fact, a University of Kentucky study says that not only are grateful people kinder, they are also less aggressive.
If you’re a dad who wants to raise grateful kids, here are some simple gratitude lessons that can help your children develop thankful hearts.
1. Verbal Reminders
Tell your kids to say thank you. Simple, I know, but it’s what your children need. Early in their lives, people build habits that will last a lifetime. At first, kids will use “thank you” without understanding what it means. That’s why it’s important for you to instill it as a necessary part of social interaction.
Once they reach the age of four, find unique ways of communicating, “say thank you.” If you keep repeating this phrase, your kids will tune you out or automatically say the words without thinking. Instead, use prompts to help your children understand why they are thankful.
Here are some examples to encourage gratitude in your kids:
- Isn’t that a nice gift?
- What would you like to tell Mr. Fern?
- I’d be thrilled if I got a boat like that.
- Mrs. Letterman, you’ve no idea what this means to Landon.
2. Teach Value
How many times have you thought, “I wish these kids would just appreciate what they were given”? As adults, we all have…at some point or another. We expect our kids to automatically understand the value of hard work and appreciate what they’ve been given (ahem, new toy at Christmas that was quickly tossed to the side).
But this is also a lesson that must be taught. How? By showing them that nothing in life is truly free.
A great way to do this is a chore reward system. Assign chores to your children, promise them rewards ahead of time, and deliver once they complete the task to your standards. Vary the prize levels. It’s important that your children value a heartfelt “thank you” as much as they do that new matchbox car.
Money will become a powerful reward the older kids get. But be careful in giving them too much. $100 a week will leave them with everything they want and nothing sacrificed. Instead, find out what they want to buy. Then set up a plan to reward them the money over time. This waiting period and their chores will teach kids that what they’ve been given is something to be thankful for.
3. Do as You Say
When your kids are growing up, most of what they learn will be from watching others. You can tell your kids a hundred times to say thank you, but it won’t stick if you ignore this advice. “Do as I say and not as I do” drives kids mad. They won’t tolerate hypocrisy, and neither should you.
Imagine yourself in your kid’s shoes. If something happens that you’d want to make your kid say thank you for, then say thank you. This practice applies to simple things such as your wife bringing salt to the table or your cashier bagging your groceries. Everything you miss will reinforce bad habits in your child’s mind.
And don’t forget to recognize gratitude in your children. Often, as parents, we get so tied up in normal everyday life that we miss the kind acts that our kids perform. And if you miss an opportunity to thank your children, much of your hard work will have a reversal effect. Try to constantly be aware of kind or generous acts from your children and immediately tell them how proud they’ve made you.
4. Teach Kids to Volunteer
Part of growing up is recognizing what you can give the world. Doing this goes hand in hand with understanding the sacrifices others have made for you. You won’t understand pain until you’ve experienced a little for yourself.
Interacting with those who are less fortunate can give perspective to your own life. Your kid may think his life is rotten because he’s failing 6th-grade Algebra. But that D- will look far less troublesome compared to those who have lost their homes.
Need some volunteering ideas? Start by helping out at your local soup kitchen. Or, give your kids a list of charities and let them choose one to donate to. Not only will you create cherished memories, but you will also be teaching your children to be grateful for what they have.
More Resources to Help You Build a Happy, Healthy Family :
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1. Remind your kids verbally to say thank you in ways that promote thinking.
2. See if your kid is doing things to make gains or out of a genuine desire to do good.
3. Teach kids value by making them work and giving them a measured allowance.
4. Follow your own instructions to remain consistent and avoid imparting bad habits.
5. Teach kids to volunteer to instill perspective and value kindness.