A sense of gratitude can benefit kids (and adults) in a variety of ways. Both expressing — and feeling — gratitude are important parts of life. Gratitude is being thankful and appreciative of the good things you have. A person who is grateful tends to spend less time comparing him or herself with others and feeling jealous, which decreases stress, worry and sadness.
The best way parents can raise grateful kids is by modeling the behavior themselves. Most parents teach their kids the importance of saying thank you, but many kids don’t know what it means to be grateful. It’s easy enough to say thank you to Grandma for a sweater. The bigger challenge is in helping kids see why they should be happy about receiving a sweater instead of a toy. This is where gratitude comes in.
Ways to Teach Gratitude
Just as you teach your kids to brush their teeth and put their clothes away, you can also teach them gratitude. And it’s never too early to start. Modeling is critical for young kids because they pick up on what parents do and say. If you feel grateful about something that happened to you, share it with them. Parents can show gratitude for something big like help from a friend, but also something small, such as a sunny day or a warm cup of tea. You and your kids can make a gratitude jar and add your blessings on a slip of paper.
When kids get a little older they can reflect on their day. Parents can ask them each night what they liked about their day (e.g., "Was someone kind to you?" or, "Did you do something nice for someone?"). Many successful people make a gratitude list of good things that happened, including good things that could come out of something bad that happened. Often when things don’t go the way we had hoped something better comes. “Opportunities, relationships, even money flowed my way when I learned to be grateful no matter what happened in my life.” — Oprah Winfrey
Ultimately gratitude can help adults and children alike, and the best thing parents can do is be a good role model for their children. So the next time something good — or even not so good — happens, express your appreciation out loud and write it down.