Gratitude More Than Attitude: Teaching Children the Joy of Being Grateful
February 12th, 2013 posted by Caron B. Goode, Ed.D.
by Caron B. Goode, Ed.D.
Gratitude is more than an attitude. Recent studies show that grateful people are happier, more resilient, and less depressed. They also have higher self-esteem and better relationships. These results prove that gratitude is more than polite manners and positive thinking. It is a way of life, and a wonderful legacy to leave our children. Plus, the beauty of gratitude is that it does not have to come naturally. It can be taught. A study by Dr. Michael McCullough, professor of psychology and religious studies at the University of Miami, demonstrates just that. McCullough, who also co-authored The Psychology of Gratitude, asked his subjects to write down four or five things they were grateful for each day. In as little as two weeks, they began feeling happier. This illustrates that gratitude can not only be taught, but that it is relatively simple to do so.
Seven Simple Ways to Teach Your Children Gratitude
Take time each day to encourage your children to express gratitude. They can do this by making an entry in a family journal or by simply talking about what they are grateful for.
As with everything, modeling is the best way to teach your children to be grateful. Be lavish with your thanks. Thank your children for hugs. Thank the cashier for ringing up your groceries. Thank the bus driver for returning your students home safely. Letting your children see that you are grateful will encourage them to be so as well.
We all know the importance of family rituals. Establishing rituals that highlight being thankful is a wonderful teaching tool. Start dinner with each family member sharing what they are most grateful for. Say goodnight by sharing what you were thankful for that day. Any ritual that based on gratitude will reinforce its power.
Volunteering is a great way for your children to see gratitude in action. There are numerous chances in every community to volunteer. Homeless shelters, nursing homes, and mentoring programs are just a few. There may also be other opportunities closer to home. Perhaps an elderly relative or neighbor could use a hand. It feels good to help others. Therefore, your children not only benefit from that, but they also get to experience the warmth of appreciation. Two things for which they can be grateful.
Children learn by doing chores. They learn what it means to be part of a whole. They learn their contributions are important. They also learn that most things take effort. Simple household chores can help children learn to be grateful when they benefit from the efforts of others.
Thank You Notes.
Writing thank you notes for gifts is a very literal way of teaching your children gratitude. Putting down on paper what they enjoyed about a particular gift, reminds your children why they are grateful for it.
Find Your Gratitude.
Always be on the lookout for things to be grateful for and express your gratitude. When your children hear you say things like, “Buster is such a good dog” or “What a beautiful day”, they realize they can be grateful for even the smallest of things.