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Teaching Gratitude to kids. How to foster gratitude in children and help them learn to feel gratitude and express gratitude.
Most parents out there want their children to be able to display gratitude. We don’t want spoiled children who are ungrateful for what they are given. We remind our children to says thank you for even the simple compliments given by strangers.
I know there are many who would argue parents aren’t doing a good enough job at this, if they are doing a job of it at all. I think this is true in some cases, unfortunately. Entitlement is definitely a huge problem.
So if we, as parents, are doing the obligatory “say thank you” constantly, why are we still producing entitled children? That is an important question to think about. There are several paths I could take from that thought. Today, I want to take the gratitude path.
We need to teach gratitude in the home.
Starting with teaching kids to say “thank you” is a nice first step. Sometimes actions precede beliefs. That is why we work to teach our children to practice saying, “Thank you” before they actually feel thankful for the service or the object offered.
But that definitely is not enough. That cannot be it.
This is a hard concept to teach children because it is abstract. One of my learning themes is “gratitude” with “thankful” as our vocabulary word. I always do pictures to illustrate our theme and our vocabulary word. Well, you can’t just pull an image off the internet that shows your child what “gratitude” or “thankful” mean.
Lead by Example
One of the most powerful ways to teach these abstract ideas is through your example. It always comes back to that. You are the leader on this. You need to express your gratitude for people and things in your life. You also need to set the precedent that everything in life is not a given. And even the things in life that are “givens” still deserve to be appreciated.
When the bagger puts my groceries in a bag at the grocery store, I could walk away without thanking him or her. It is their job right? They are getting paid for it; they don’t need a thank you on top of it. Just because something is someone’s job and getting your groceries bagged is a service we can count on doesn’t mean the person doing it doesn’t deserve a thank you.
You know who else deserves thank yous? Parents. Moms and Dads. Moms and Dads do things that are their job. It is a parent’s job to take care of the family. It is your job to provide food and shelter. It is your job to clean clothes. It is your job to get up with a sick child. These are all things you signed up for when you decided to be a parent.
But isn’t a thank you nice anyway? Even though it is your job, your responsibility, and your obligation, don’t you love a thank you?
So we need to teach our children gratitude for things, even the gimmies, because it is a nice thing to do.
And for those who are religious, think back to the story of the 10 Lepers. Ten were healed and only one thanked the Savior. All 10 were healed, but only the one who showed gratitude was made whole. Ingratitude is one of the most serious of sins, which makes gratitude one of the best virtues. So you want to teach your children gratitude not only because it is nice, but because ingratitude is a sin, and gratitude is a virtue.
Show your children your gratitude for your parents, for your teachers, for your children’s teachers, and for your friends. Show your children your gratitude for your country and for those who have made your country what it is. Also, show your children your gratitude for the Savior, Jesus Christ.
Other Ways to Demonstrate Gratitude
There are lots of ways to show gratitude. We can show through words. Through notes. Through actions. Through gifts. Be an example of this and let your children see your expressions of gratitude. Express your gratitude in your prayers. Teach your children scripture stories that tell they both why they should be grateful and how others expressed and showed gratitude. Serving others shows the gratitude we have for our own blessings.
Keep in mind that teaching gratitude is not a simple, single lesson. Again, it is taught through example, which means it needs to be part of your lifestyle. It needs to be who you are, and it will then become who your children are.
This is just the first step in teaching gratitude and that is expressing it. The next step is teaching children to learn to feel gratitude. Read more on helping children (and you!) feel gratitude here.
For more on gratitude and activity ideas, see:
Ideas for this post inspired by this talk from Thomas S. Monson