10 Ways to Raise Thankful Children
Many parents teach their children to say thank you as one of the first social rules they learn, and for good reason. We want our children to be grateful and not take things for granted, and teaching them to be grateful can help them improve their relationships, empathy, and overall happiness. Here are some ideas for reinforcing the value of gratitude or finding other meaningful ways for your kids to show gratitude:
1. Set a good example.
Children pick up a lot from their parents. Offer a genuine "thank you!" to a waitress who serves your food, a helpful neighbor, or someone who holds the door open for you to show them what it means to be grateful. But don't stop there; involve your children as well. Thanking children for doing helpful things, even if they are chores like putting away toys, reinforces the behavior and lets them know they are valued.
2. Highlight generosity
When people (including your children!) go above and beyond what's expected, such as helping without being asked, being especially thoughtful, or taking extra time to do something because it's important to someone else, make a big deal out of it. Send the message that if they knock themselves out for you or someone else, you will notice.
3. Have a discussion
A discussion about how showing appreciation makes other people feel can be beneficial for some children, particularly young children or those who have difficulty understanding emotions. Ask your child how they feel when people say thank you for something nice they've done, and how they feel when they don't. In order to help them understand how his actions affect other people and the emotional benefits of gratitude, he should think about his own feelings.
4. Think of creative ways to express gratitude.
There are numerous ways to express gratitude. If your child is shy around strangers or has trouble expressing themselves in writing, brainstorm with them to come up with a different way for them to express their gratitude. If someone holds the door open, they could smile or give a thumbs up, or instead of writing a card, they could draw a thank you picture (or take a smiling selfie!) to show Grandma how much they love their new coat.
5. Spread the joy!
Encourage children to thank those who assist them, from coaches to neighbors to local firefighters, with cookies or cupcakes. They're fun to make and give, and they help kids see how interconnected we all are.
6. Put things into perspective
Discuss the plight of those who are less fortunate with your children. You don't want to scare them, but you also don't want to keep them in the dark. People who know that not everyone has the same opportunities will be able to show compassion for others and be grateful for their own opportunities.
7. Give children the freedom to make their own choices.
Encourage children to put their passions into action. Whether it's a school fundraiser, a bake sale, or a charity run, expressing their interests and skills for a good cause is a great way to boost their confidence while also giving them a chance to give back.
Make giving back a family affair if your children are too young to go alone or aren't comfortable dealing with strangers alone. Find volunteer opportunities with your child or let him or her choose a charity to donate to. Giving and gratitude go hand in hand, and doing so as a family will bring everyone closer together while also allowing you to create some wonderful memories.
9. Make gratitude a part of your bedtime routine.
Ask your child to tell you three things they're grateful for before you tuck them in at night. It will help them—and you—end each day on a positive note, even if they've had a bad day.
10. Give credit to children.
Keep in mind that your child may have his or her own way of expressing gratitude, even if it differs from yours. Different children communicate in various ways. For example, your child may prefer a hug to a verbal thank you, or they may express their gratitude by helping around the house or drawing you a picture. By paying attention to your child's unique way of being grateful, you can show them that you see and appreciate the thoughtful person they already are, even as they learn new ways to give back.