Teaching children thankfulness

Encouraging children to adopt the attitude of gratitude.

Follow these tips and tricks for helping your child adopt an attitude of gratitude.
Follow these tips and tricks for helping your child adopt an attitude of gratitude.

It is the season of thankfulness. Thanksgiving is fast approaching, as well as the extended holiday season that values gift-giving and spending time with loved ones; thankfulness is the keyword of the season. Teaching children gratitude and thankfulness is an important lesson, one that shouldn’t just be limited to one season each year.

Michigan State University Extension has some tips and tricks for helping your child adopt an attitude of gratitude.

Count your blessings. Help your children recognize all the good things in their life by encouraging them to think about all they have to be thankful for. You could start a family tradition where each person shares something they are thankful for at the dinner table each night or maybe during your bedtime routine. Encouraging children to think about the good things in their life on a daily basis can not only teach them to be grateful for their blessings, but those daily reminders of the good things in their lives can help them overcome when they face struggles.

Value manners. Help your child understand the value of thankfulness and gratitude in their daily lives. From saying please and thank you, to writing thank-you notes. Give your children supplies and encourage them to send thank-you notes when they receive a gift, when someone does something nice for them or just because. In our ever-increasing technological world, remember there are more ways to send thank-you notes than through snail mail. Although mailed notes are still fun to receive, your child could just as easily send an email, video or picture to someone expressing their gratitude.

Be a role model. Children learn so much from watching adults, even older children. Make sure your child sees and hears you being grateful. Whether it is thanking your spouse for making a delicious dinner, sending a meal to a sick friend or helping an elderly neighbor rake the leaves. You show your child what you value through your words and actions, so make sure to value gratitude.

Get your kids involved. Children may need reminders and direction in your quest to help them learn thankfulness and gratitude, but they also need lots of opportunities to practice on their own. You might remind your child they should thank their grandmother for their birthday money, but encourage them to find their own personal and creative way to do so.

Think about those in need. Focusing on the things for which you are grateful is only half the battle. Blessings are meant to be shared and passed around. Help your child think about people who might not experience the same blessings like having a home, having enough food to eat and having family to support you. Then, help them think critically about how they can reach out and share their time, energy and own blessings to help others. Teach your child the value of action, that more than just thinking about others, our actions can make a difference in their lives.

Thankfulness helps children focus on the positive and helps them feel connected to their families, communities and our larger world. So make this season, and all seasons, one of thankfulness.

For more articles on child development, academic success, parenting and life skill development, please visit the Michigan State University Extension website.

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