You want your children to have everything they need and so it’s only natural that we do all we can to keep them happy. Unfortunately, the result of this generosity is all too often a sense of entitlement and dissatisfaction. Instilling gratitude in your children is a wonderful gift. Knowing and really feeling how lucky they are will make them happier and healthier.
Why should kids be grateful?
While you may prattle on about how children in Africa don’t have new toys or vegetables to eat, it’s completely understandable that this has no effect on your children. They don’t really understand how lucky they are because their only points of comparison are the other children and families in your neighborhood.
Giving your children a real sense of gratitude means changing their outlooks and attitudes and studies show that it makes happier children. “When kids recognize that the things they own and the opportunities they have come from someone other than themselves, it helps them develop a healthy understanding of how interdependent we all are — and they may be more inclined to treat others with genuine respect,” says Andrea Reiser, happiness coach. Being appreciative also improves your kid’s manners and their relationships to other people.
How to instill gratitude
Count your blessings: Every day, encourage younger students to list a couple of things they are thankful for and why. Get older kids to keep a gratitude journal. Make this a part of your daily routine over dinner or on commutes so that you highlight gratitude as a daily necessity.
Be a good example: Be gracious when accepting gifts and constantly talk about all the things you are grateful for. You should also make it a regular occurrence to remind your children that you are grateful for them so that they understand how wonderful it feels to be appreciated.
Less is more: I know you want to give your kids everything, but resist the temptation. When you shower your kids with too much stuff, gifts lose their value and they never seem quite satisfied. Instead, resist the urge to spoil them and get them to pitch in for the things they really want.
Learning to give: It really is better to give than to receive so encourage your kids to give generously to friends and family members and to people less fortunate than themselves. Getting them involved in volunteering, charity drives or holiday toy collections makes their good fortune far more tangible. When they are working with or helping people less fortunate, they have something new to compare their lives to that helps them to realize how fortunate they are.
An ‘attitude of gratitude’ is a wonderful way to make your kids happier, healthier people who have great relationships with others because they are able to express appreciation and sincerity.
Pic by Lori Hurley