Are you struggling with how to teach your child gratitude? We have the best tips to help you to teach them to be more thankful!
How to Teach Your Child Gratitude
You finally get to the checkout lane after an eventful shopping trip with your kids in tow, and the begging continues. “Mom, can I have a candy?” Whining, crying, you name it, they are doing it. People are giving you looks of concern and probably wondering if you are a crazy woman. At this point, things typically spin out of control and you’re making a desperate attempt to just get out the door and get everyone settled. You give into a candy bar and even a darn toy because the fit just wouldn’t stop.
After you finally make it to the car, your head is spinning and your child has chocolate smeared all over their sweet face with a toy that is literally going to be played with for .2 seconds.
No thank yous escape their mouth.
And every time this happens, all you can think is that it won’t ever happen again.
But, how do we teach our children to be grateful and avoid the unintended give-ins with toys and candy and things they don’t need?
I’ll tell you how!
Teach them to Work
Yup, you read that right! Teach them how to do jobs around the house and contribute to the household. Start with something simple like making their own bed that they slept in. My kids quickly moved up the ladder and started scrubbing floors in the kitchen where they drop food at mealtime. When they have to sweep up the mess and get down on their hands and knees to scrub the dried up noodles off the floor, they really are more appreciative of the efforts I put in when I make them a nice dinner or they have clean dishes to eat off of. Kids start to recognize that things don’t just happen and fall into place. Someone has to put actual effort into it!
Stop Giving Them Everything
As parents, we have this innate desire to make our kids happy. We don’t really want them to experience want or disappointment. But, the reality of life is that everyone needs to and does feel a spectrum of emotions. Providing for basic needs is, of course, exempt. But don’t just buy your daughter a Hatchimal because she is sitting the cart wailing for it.
Looking at things realistically, my child wasn’t legitimately happy because I gave him chocolate. That happiness might last for a minute until he demands more of something else.
Buying our children things does not buy their happiness. It may seem like it when you get the tantrum to abruptly stop, but it isn’t a solution. It’s an addition to the compounding problem. We are inadvertently teaching our children to expect things when we give into the lies of buying happiness!
When we head to the store I plan if what we are going to be buying. There is usually something on the list for each child when I head out, so on our way I ask them, “Do you want to pick your flavor of toothpaste?” Or “Would you like a small candy to share with me?” They excitedly respond with an overwhelming “YES!” and always end up thanking me.
Be an Example
Can we really expect our kids to be grateful for things if we aren’t demonstrating our thankfulness for what we have? As parents, we really need to pay attention to how we are acting and give our kids something to exemplify.
Something I really like to do is to be intentional with thanking my children individually for simple things they have done during the day. They aren’t big things, but they are helpful things. For example, I like to thank my oldest son for getting his allergy medicine out for me to give to him in the morning because it reminds me to do it and makes it easier for me to remember when it’s sitting on the counter instead of in the cupboard. And I always thank my daughter for being inclusive with her brothers on a daily basis. These two simple things really do mean a lot to me, and I want to make sure my kids know it!
Look for things to be grateful for and your kids will too!
So let’s teach them how to have an Attitude of Gratitude!
It Takes Time
Unfortunately, kids don’t magically just start being grateful for things. Believe me, I really wanted my life lesson for them to click instantly! It just doesn’t. The combination of Mom and Dad being an example and talking with your kids about what gratitude is and implementing specific practices that make gratitude a priority makes it happen. Being intentional and taking the time to teach them takes patience, but it’s totally worth it. And you will be surprised at how quickly they catch on! They obviously won’t be perfect at it and you may have to remind your kids to be grateful, but it will happen. It’ just a process.
This is right in line with the concept of GIVING THEM TOO MUCH. Our kids do not need to get everything they want and for us to say “yes” to everything in order for them to be happy. Saying “no” when necessary makes the times we say “yes” that much more awesome! And they will be quick to express gratitude to you for those “yes” moments.
Being willing to donate toys, time, and talents are things I want my children to be vigilant with! I’m sure you feel the same way. Each year, usually around November and December, we go through our toys and clothes and figure out what we are going to keep, donate, and throw away. So, we have three piles and we are sure to donate the things that we aren’t in need of to people that do need it. My kids have come to really enjoy doing this and look forward to it each year. It has been extra special the last two years because my children have sought out and figured out who they feel are people that need it most. The smiles on their faces when they see their hard work pay off is so beautiful!
Emphasizing sharing our talents with others is really important too! Everyone is good at different things and it is so wonderful to find joy in serving and bring joy to others when we put forth the effort to serve others.
Set reasonable expectations for your kids when it comes to showing gratitude and thankfulness in your home. My kids used to commonly complain about what we were having for dinner. They would whine about having tacos again or having chicken divan. We had to sit them down and explain why that behavior isn’t appropriate. We set clear expectations and made it a commonality to thank whoever made the meal. My husband was wonderful at setting a firm example of this! Thankfully, since we had the heart-to-heart with our kids about dinner complaints, they have ceased. “Thank yous” are sincerely given each and every night.