Teaching gratitude: Start them young

One of the most important things you can impart on your children is being grateful for what they have. This will help them appreciate the things they receive, material or otherwise, for the rest of their lives. The biggest obstacle is understanding at what age to begin teaching gratitude. Best advice: as young as possible. Although children of a non-speaking age cannot convey their gratitude, it is always recommended by baby experts to talk to them. So why not tell them how grateful you are for them? As they get older, about 18-24 months, begin working gratefulness into conversations. Tell them "I am so grateful you chose to make a good choice and pick up your toys!" So it has begun, teaching gratitude is underway. As they get older, incorporate ways to help others as a way to understand why being grateful for what they have is important. Do this by encouraging them to give to organizations that collect gently used clothes and toys. Explain to them that these objects coming from them go to children who do not have things like it. Teach them that what they take for granted, other children are not as fortunate to have. By seeing that they could have less, hopefully they will appreciate what they receive more. Have them write thank you notes to people. Such as the fire fighters or police officers that visit their school, or scout group, To their Aunt, Uncle, Grandparent, etc., that came to their last birthday party, or school play. Even if they cannot write their expression of gratitude in so many words, have them draw a picture of their favorite part with that person at the event, then model how to put "thank you" above or below it. Teaching gratitude through empathy is also very helpful for small children. While you are at the grocery store on a hot day with your child, and the cart attendant gives you a cart they just pulled into the store, tell your child, "Aren't we grateful for their hard work on such a hot day? We know how hot we were working the yard last weekend." If your child can relate to another's feelings they will likely be more grateful for the actions of others. Remember, it is okay to tell your child "no". If you constantly say yes to requests for candy at the checkout, or a toy every time you visit the mall it will be easy for your child's appreciation to desensitize when receiving something new. If you'd like, tell them the reason for your decision to say no. Let them know that the family is saving money for an upcoming vacation, or gift for a family member. Remind them how excited they are to go on said trip, or the excitement they will feel when giving the gift. As children get to a point in their lives where they have their own money, or are receiving it as gifts, encourage them to buy their own games or candy. Even suggest they pay their own way into the movie, and you will buy their popcorn. When they see their own money being put to use they will not only feel more grateful for whatever they purchased, they will also hopefully feel more grateful for the things you have provided for them. Above all remember patience with them. These positive behaviors build and grow stronger year after year of their development, and will not become second nature to them over night. You are still going to see looks of jealousy, and small acts of disdain over not receiving certain things. These are teachable moments to remind them of things they have, use them! Other teachable moments come when you see your child expressing gratitude, be sure to express yours back.
Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.