Like most positive practices and behaviors, we want to see our children be grateful and grow up to be grateful adults. Most young children are naturally grateful. They display gratitude with wild giggles, big open mouth smiles, laughter, hugs, and soon will utter, “thank you” with wild enthusiasm. We can continue this natural state of joy, and gratefulness by doing three things.
Three Levels of Gratitude
First, model gratitude. As parents, we have a lot of influence over our children, and by saying thank often, you will encourage your child to do the same.
Secondly, talk openly about the feelings that arise when you or your child are inspired to give to others.
Lastly, provide opportunities for them to contribute in selfless ways, particularly to strangers.
The gratitude we model is going to play a major role in how grateful our children are. Tell your children often that you are grateful for them and any help they offer. It is better to “show” them how to express gratitude than to tell them. Let your child know exactly what you are grateful for.
“I really like the care you took when you put the clean clothes away. That makes me feel good. Thank you.”
“It was very kind of you to offer to share your crayons with your younger sister. I appreciate kindness and generosity. Thank you.”
The Benefit of Showing Gratitude
Coaxing children into saying, “thank you” doesn’t create the same endorphin release as allowing the child to generate true heartfelt thanks on their own. To help do this, you can ask your child how they feel when they are kind to other people, or make birthday or holiday cards for them. When my children were younger, we would make dozens of holiday cards for the folks at a local rehabilitation center. Many of the residents were elderly and had very little to brighten their day. My children got to experience true gratitude and thanksgiving from these strangers for their efforts.
When my children were younger, we would make dozens of holiday cards for the folks at a local rehabilitation center. Many of the residents were elderly and had very little to brighten their day. My children got to experience true gratitude and thanksgiving from these strangers for their efforts.
One day, after leaving the center, I asked my seven-year-old how he felt.
“I feel warm, happy” he said.
“I call that a warm fuzzy,” I told him. “It feels good to give and be kind to others. The folks you gave cards to have a similar feeling. They are feeling grateful toward you.”
Allowing children experience firsthand this “warm fuzzy” and providing a name for it will help them grow into grateful adults.
More Ways to Show Gratitude
Learning to say thanks in other languages can be a fun way to encourage the showing of gratitude. Children really do enjoy learning when it is fun. You could encourage children to ask friends of different nationalities how to say “Thank you” in their language or they could look them up. Choose a whole day to use your special “thank you”.
Here are our family favorites:
French: Merci beaucoup
Show your children the way gratitude makes them and those around them feel, and you will set them up for a happy future.