While grateful children can certainly make their parents happy, there may be another, more important reason to instill gratitude in your children. According to the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, “…people who practice gratitude feel considerably happier (25%) than those in a control group; they are more joyful, enthusiastic, interested, and determined.” Wow. Who knew that teaching children to appreciate their blessings could make such an impact on them for the rest of their lives?
If you are a prepping family or a family who watches the budget and lives frugally, chances are that your children have already picked up some behaviors of gratitude already. Still, speaking from experience, there are times when it seems nearly impossible for our children to express being grateful. Here five ways you can instill gratitude in children and make it stick for life.
1. Thank those who serve. Doing something nice for someone has its own positive reward, and seeing others grateful for your own actions can help you appreciate your unexpected blessings. Make some hot chocolate for the bus driver or crossing guard, send holiday cards to military families, visit your local police station or fire station with a basket of muffins you whip up together from a mix. Thanking others should be fun and easy to do.
2. Pay attention to effort. Most of the time parents and caregivers comment on the negative: the face covered in chocolate, the homework mistake, the bed that is still lumpy after being made. Instead, make it a habit of praising effort and showing gratitude for it even if something isn’t perfect. “Wow, you put your dishes in the sink without being asked. Thank you. That makes things easier for me.”
3. Expose your kids to those less fortunate. Many parents shy away from letting their children experiencing life that is less than perfect. Children can doing everything from bringing a quick fix meal to an elderly neighbor, to volunteer at a soup kitchen (with parents). Children tend to think that every other child or adult lives as they do. It is a natural assumption for youngsters.
4. Make giving a habit. Regularly enlist your kids to go through their closets and toy bins to select items for donation. Offer small chores that they can do to earn money that can then be given to a charity of their choosing. Make thinking of others in need a normal part of the everyday, and your children may just look around and appreciate all of the blessings in their lives.
5. Be patient. Demanding that a child be grateful for something will only have the opposite effect. Gratitude should be a willing and positive emotion. Encourage children to see the good in any situation and fully embrace the joy of a blessing, even if it is only having their favorite pizza or pasta for dinner.