Ask anyone who knows my kids, and they’ll probably tell you that my kids are grateful and appreciative humans. No, I’m not bragging or looking for a parenting pat on the back.
While I think worldschooling and unschooling my children have a lot to do with it, the way my kids school is only part of the reason why I think my children are so grateful for what they have, for the people and opportunities in their lives, and the world around them.
I think the way they’ve been raised to appreciate everything, especially the small things in life, and the finiteness of everything has a lot to do with it.
Let’s Talk About Gratitude – It Starts with YOU
Let’s face it. Parents who value gratitude and expressing thanks, and try to instill a sense of gratitude in their child, tend to raise grateful kids. As a parent, it’s often easy to notice which of your kids’ playmates or friends (or their parents) similarly value gratitude.
Gratitude is one of those things that is learned. And practiced.
As a mom, I’ve tried my best to help my kids appreciate everything, the good and the bad, the small and the big. After all, we only have one life and opportunity to do this life thing well.
Now that my children are teenagers (one is an older tween) and becoming their own people more each day, I get a chance to see their gratitude and appreciation for life and its details even more than when they were younger. Sometimes, I can’t help but notice the expression of gratitude –or lack of it–amongst their peers or friends of similar age. It’s not that I’m looking for it. It’s just sometimes gratitude, and the way people show it, or don’t, is more than obvious.
Gratitude is not something you usually have to look hard to find or see.
Entitlement vs. Gratitude
Sometimes, gratitude is one of those in your face things. Sometimes, it’s one of those things that seems to highlight the culture of entitlement. And sometimes it even separates people. For example, the appreciative vs. the unappreciative. The grateful vs. the entitled.
Studies, such as one by the University of California, Davis, show that people “who view life as a gift and consciously acquire an ‘attitude of gratitude’ experience multiple advantages.” For example, gratitude can improve health, relationships, and communities. And it can inspire. In stark contrast, “entitlement is virtually the opposite of gratitude.” When people feel or act entitled, gratitude actually diminishes. Effectively, an attitude of entitlement can have a negative effect on health and relationships.
One way to look at it, is that that entitlement closes the heart, while gratitude opens the heart. As a parent, my goal has always been to grow kids with open hearts and open minds.
READ MORE: To learn more about raising grateful kids, grab a copy of the popular book, Me, Me, Me Epidemic: A Step-by-Step Guide to Raising Capable, Grateful Kids in an Over-Entitled World.
How to Raise Kids Who Express Gratitude
When raising young kids, teaching the expression of gratitude might initially look like good manners. For example, teaching kids to say, thank you. Or, it might also come in the form of teaching children to give sincere compliments or appreciative sentiments.
However, words are one thing. Helping your children to make a connection between the words and the internal feeling of gratitude is another.
Here are some tips on how to raise grateful kids:
1. Role Model Gratitude
One way to raise kids who express gratitude is by modeling gratitude yourself. Showing meaningful thanks and appreciation yourself. Gratitude for not just the big things in life, but especially for the little things. And importantly, modeling optimism and looking for the positive in life and situations.
2. Pay Attention
Let your children see that gratitude is about paying attention.
Gratitude involves noticing the world around them. The people. The beauty of the ordinary. Noticing the little things that other people say or do. For example, if someone knows your child’s favorite color and gives your child a cupcake with their favorite color frosting, help your child see that gesture of kindness and help them make the gratitude connection – between the internal warm feeling and external expression of thanks.
3. Show Gratitude for Your Kids
Every. Single. Day. I express appreciation and gratitude for my kids. I am so thankful they exist. And so grateful for all they do, the kindness they choose to offer the world, and for who they are.
If there’s a magic or secret sauce on how to raise grateful kids, I definitely think this is a key ingredient. Don’t hold back on telling your kids and showing them how grateful you are for having them in your life. Telling them once isn’t enough. Shower them with gratitude.
4. Do Good Stuff Together
Another way to raising grateful kids is to do good stuff together. And by good stuff, I’m talking about giving to others. Like volunteering in your community, helping others, or going good deeds.
Doing good stuff together doesn’t have to cost a thing, other than your time. Over the years, my kids and I have volunteered by putting together brown bag lunches for the homeless. We’ve baked together for community bake sales. We’ve participated in charity events and fundraisers. And, we’ve shoveled sidewalks and steps for people who needed a little extra help. Volunteering and doing good together is a great way to help your kids understand and feel gratitude, and to give thanks for life, what they have, and for others.
Share the LOVE – How to Raise Grateful Children
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