“What do you think of the gift auntie gave you? Say thank you.” Every day, parents remind their children about expressing gratitude for the things they have. Some parents try to teach their children about showing appreciation for what they already have by refusing to give them even more. Other families teach their children to express gratitude by appreciating others as well as the opportunities and gifts they receive. Anything you can do to teach your children about gratitude and expressing appreciation will slowly sink in. As your children grow older, they will be accustomed to expressing thankfulness for everything they have.
Any expression of thankfulness is a pronounced gratitude. You may have heard politicians, ordinary people and clergy persons expressing gratitude to service members for protecting our borders or for giving their lives in defense of our country. At other times, someone may express gratitude because someone else intervened, helping them through a difficult situation. Our children hear these expressions, but they may not completely understand what it means to feel grateful.
Parents should be able to understand what it means to be grateful so that they can teach their children how to express gratitude towards the little wonders and big opportunities life gives them.
What it Means to Be Grateful
You can never define gratitude without first defining what it means to be grateful. A person who is grateful has a positive outlook on life. They live in the present. Gratefulness comes from the Latin word “gratus,” which implies pleasure or seeing something pleasing, according to Psychology Today. This means that when you feel gratitude, you feel pleasure.
Think about the last time you were grateful. It may have been the first warm day after a cold winter. A friend may have said something in support of you during a difficult situation with other friends or coworkers. What emotions did you experience? Happiness and pleasure? Feeling loved and valued? Being elated because of the first warm day after several months of bleak weather?
How Gratitude Affects Your Health
Gratitude can also be described as a “personality strength”. Those who feel gratitude are blessed because they have the ability to be fully aware of the good things in their lives. They have learned not to take anything for granted, according to Sparkpeople. They also express their gratitude honestly, from their hearts. People who feel gratitude deeply also understand how to experience thankfulness to others.
If your heart is filled with gratitude and if you are skilled at expressing it, you will lead a happier and a more energetic lifestyle because you aren’t solely focusing on the bad things that happen to you. More happiness means that you will be in a better physical shape.
If you seem to be experiencing only bad events in your life, you should still express gratitude every day. Look at anything that’s even slightly positive and express gratitude that it happened. If you do this regularly, you will begin to notice that you are more hopeful. Your sense of well-being may increase as well. A few concrete ways of practicing gratitude include the following:
- Gratitude journal: Write down three to five things you feel grateful for, on a daily basis.
- Get into the practice of reporting one good thing that happened to everyone in your family daily. Challenge someone who’s complaining to find something positive to mention.
- When something “bad” happens, look for the good in the situation. If, for instance, your car pool was late, you may have missed an accident that happened a few minutes earlier.
Teaching Your Children an Attitude of Gratitude
What does gratitude mean? Sure, you can talk to your children all day long about being grateful, but, according to the Huffington Post, they need to know why they should be grateful.
Children who express gratitude often are more physically and emotionally healthy. When their parents teach them how to find gratitude every day, they are able to increase their feelings of happiness by about 25 percent. They have higher self-esteem, empathy, hope and optimism as well.
Even young children can learn to develop a healthy perspective. By recognizing all the good things in their lives, their hearts will surge with hopefulness, even if they have less than other children. When you teach your children how to express their gratitude, they begin to develop better relationships with others. Teach your children how to express their gratitude through the following techniques:
- Name your blessings every day.
- Express your own gratitude.
- Have your children work for what they want.
- Hold back on giving your children things.
- Say “thank you” often and mean it. Do so in front of your children.
- Keep thank-you notes available and make sure they are used.
- Encourage your children to serve others – volunteering in a nursing home or helping a neighbor with yard work.
- If you believe in a Higher Power, teach your children to associate that Being with gratitude.
- Be ready to use situations as teachable moments. Experiencing a real-life moment that allows them to feel gratitude means that memory will stick in their psyches.
- Teach your children manners, respect and politeness – and require them to use these every day.
- Look for the good in a situation. Teach your children to find the silver lining in the clouds that darken their lives. This is the attitude of gratitude – using perspective to find something for which to be grateful.
Show Your Children How to Be Grateful
Young children aren’t always grateful for what they have. Once they get something, they seem to want something else. Teach your youngest children to express gratitude – to look outside their little worlds. When you notice someone doing something for you or your children, point this out. “Oh, look! Grandma’s making me some hot chocolate!” Then, thank grandma and mean it. Your children may notice that you didn’t ask for the cup of hot cocoa, but grandma made it anyway. Point out when Daddy helps them pick up their toys before bedtime. “This means you don’t have to pick everything up! How does that make you feel?” Hopefully, your children will know how to say “thank you” and mean it. Your toddler can express gratitude, especially when you and your family practice it every day.
The holidays are known for being a time of overly generous giving, particularly from aunts, uncles and grandparents. Develop gift-opening rituals so children learn how to feel gratitude for the gift and giver. Downplay the importance of the gifts they may receive. Focus more on the warm rituals and family traditions. If your children get a large number of gifts, take one-half of the gifts and put them away for several months. Allow your children to play with the remaining gifts. Several months later, bring out the stored-away toys and put away the toys they have been playing with. Or bring out one toy at a time when it’s wet outside or when your children aren’t feeling well.
Giving Less: A Technique to Teach Gratitude
Children who get everything they want or demand won’t understand the concept of gratitude. Because they get toys on demand, it becomes a routine event for them, and gratitude goes out the window. Even if you can afford to buy a new toy for your children whenever they want, start to deny them that toy every so often. Disappoint them. When they do get a gift, remind them it was given out of love. Remind them to say “thank you” and mean it.
Teach your children to be grateful for the food you buy by expecting them to help with dinner preparations. If they are involved in making a part of the entree, they will be grateful to have it on their plates.
Remind them to be grateful for the toys they have now, rather than the ones they want to buy. Give them choices about what to buy, but only buy one thing for them. If they enjoy Lego, they enjoy the specialty sets. Tell them you’ll buy a generic can of these bricks so they can build items out of their imaginations, suggests TheAtlantic.com.