How to Teach Thankfulness to Children

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Children are naturally self-centered and they won’t become thankful on their own. It’s important to teach thankfulness to children because this character trait has the ability to improve an individual’s happiness and health. While teaching your kids to say “please” and “thank you” is definitely a good start, there’s a lot more to gratitude than good manners. Not only do you need to start teaching kids about gratitude, but you also need to make sure that they practice it regularly so it takes hold in their own life.

Why is Teaching Thankfulness Important?

Why should you take the time to teach thankfulness to your children? Research shows that being thankful offers many benefits, including mental and physical benefits. Here are just a few of the reasons that it’s important to teach your kids about this important character trait.

  • Gratitude Can Improve Your Child’s Grades – According to a study published in the Journal of Happiness Studies, gratitude has the ability to improve your child’s grades. This study found that high-school students who were grateful had higher GPAs. Your child’s grades in school are important to their overall success in life, and instilling an “attitude of gratitude” in your child can improve his grades and help prepare him for academic and career success in the future.
  • Grateful Teens are Proven to Be Happier – Studies also show that grateful teens are generally happier, and the study also showed that teens have a more positive outlook on life. This results in teens being more hopeful about life and more well-behaved, particularly in school. Teaching thankfulness ensures you have a happier teen, and teens who are happier with life are less likely to be involved in bullying.
  • Being Thankful Improves Health – According to the HappierHuman.com, being thankful improves overall health and offers a number of great health benefits. Some of the health benefits of thankfulness may include:
  • Less physical pain
  • Increased quality of sleep
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Higher energy levels
  • Strong immune system
  • Increased time spent exercising
  • Faster recovery times from medical procedures
  • Giving Thanks Offers Social and Psychological Benefits – Giving thanks also offers multiple social and psychological benefits to people of all age. The Great Good Project, which is run by Berkley University, noted that social and psychological benefits of gratitude may include:

Tips for Teaching Kids to Be Thankful

It’s not enough to talk about thankfulness for a day or simply do a cute gratitude craft with your kids. This character trait needs to be instilled in children, creating an attitude of gratitude that sticks with them for life. If you’re not sure how to begin teaching your kids to be thankful, the following tips will help you start teaching your children about gratitude and giving thanks.

  • Tip #1 – Be a Model of Gratitude – If you want your children to learn to be thankful, it’s important that you are a model of gratitude. When you talk to your children, use common expressions of gratitude, such as simply saying “thank you.” When kids do something that you appreciate, let them know it. For example, if your child cleans up his room, show grateful behavior by saying, “I’m happy that you took the time to clean your room.” As you display gratitude, you’ll find that your child soon starts thanking you for things that you do too. You can also make it a habit to talk about what you are thankful for, even when things are going wrong.
  • Tip #2 – Introduce Thankfulness as a Game – Another great idea that will help you teach kids gratitude is to introduce thankfulness as a game. Ask your kids, “What are you thankful for?” Make this a fun game, having each member of the family share something for which he or she feels thankful. Consider playing this game each night at the dinner table or you can play while you are riding in the car. The goal is to make gratitude a routine, so make sure that you use this game often. When you make gratitude a game, you’ll help your children learn more about being grateful without making things too serious. Remember, kids often learn best when they play games, so turning this into a game makes this a lesson that is more likely to stick with your kids.
  • Tip #3 – Have Children Write Thank You Notes – According to Parents.com, you can also teach your children about being grateful by having them write a thank you letter when they are given a gift. If your child gets birthday gifts for his birthday part from friends or family members, have your child sit down and write thank you notes for those gifts. It’s a great idea for Christmas gifts as well. Even if your child isn’t able to write yet, you can have your child dictate a thank you letter. Then, have them color a picture to go along with the note. This gives practice at being thankful. You can also have your children write notes of thanks to people that are important to them. For example, you could have your child write a nice letter to a grandparent thanking them for being in their life. Another idea is to have your child write a letter to a teacher for teacher’s day to thank their teacher for everything they do.
  • Tip #4 – Let Your Kids Enjoy Giving – The Huffington Post recommends letting kids enjoy giving to others to teach them more about thankfulness. This is especially effective around the holidays when kids are used to just receiving gifts. Many kids only think about making a list of what they want. However, you want your kids to know how it feels to give another person a gift that they’ll really love. Around the holidays, have kids come up with a list of things they would like to give to someone else. Make it exciting and take your kids shopping for these gifts so they enjoy the feeling of making someone else happier. When kids learn about the joy of giving, it helps them learn to appreciate the effort and thought that goes into gifts they receive from others. Giving is an excellent way for kids to become more thankful for what they have and the things they are given.
  • Tip #5 – Encourage Kids to Keep a Gratitude Journal – Older children can benefit from keeping a gratitude journal. If your child is able to write, consider giving your child a journal and having him spend five minutes a day writing down a few things he’s thankful for each day. This makes kids start thinking about all that they have to be thankful for, and it makes gratitude a routine. When kids keep a gratitude journal, they start thinking about their day differently. They begin looking for things to be thankful for throughout their day, which weaves thankfulness into every part of your child’s life.
  • Tip #6 – Learn to Say No to Your Children – If you constantly give kids everything they want, it’s more difficult for them to feel grateful for what they have. While it’s easy to just spoil your children, making sure they have everything they want, this doesn’t teach them to be thankful. When you say no to your child when they ask for something, it makes them even more grateful for what they get when you do say yes to what they want.

Of course, you can’t expect children to develop thankfulness right away. It will take months, or even years, of reinforcing this character trait for it to stick. If you keep working on fostering an attitude of gratitude in your child, you’ll be rewarded over time. When your child does say “thank you” or go out of his way to show his gratefulness, make sure that you reinforce the behavior with praise. While teaching this character trait to your child will take some work, learning to give thanks will make your child happier, healthier, and more successful in life.

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