The holidays often stir up feelings of joy and excitement. For many families, the holiday hustle can also lead to feelings of overwhelm. Regardless of what holidays you celebrate, it is up to us to ensure that the holidays mean more to our children than stress and decorations. The holidays offer the perfect opportunity to reinforce the importance of gratitude with your children. Gratitude is one of the most challenging concepts to teach little ones, but also one of the most important.
Not only are thankful children more likely to be polite and pleasant, but they tend to be more sensitive to the feelings and efforts of others. On the reverse side, kids who are not taught to be grateful often develop a false sense of entitlement – which can lead to bigger problems later on.
Most experts agree that gratitude must be learned. Learning to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ is a great start for children as young as toddlers and preschoolers. But developing an attitude of gratitude goes beyond good manners. Gratefulness has to be practiced daily to really take hold. How often as adults do we find ourselves longing for more instead of appreciating what we have? To keep gratitude going is a lifelong process.
So how can we encourage thankfulness? Here are some tips to encourage an attitude of gratitude that will stay with children through adulthood:
Model it – Children learn by example. Be sure to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ when you talk to them, and insist that they use these words also. Good manners and gratitude go hand in hand. At Cranium Academy, students benefit from CRANIUM CHARACTER curriculum designed to nurture the development of values such as gratitude and respect. From preschool through elementary school, children learn how to show gratitude and good manners, and our teachers model and praise these behaviors within the classroom.
Talk about it – Weave appreciation for even the simplest things into your daily conversations. In saying things like, “We are so lucky to have this healthy lunch,” or “I am so grateful to have some extra time to spend with you,” you can help make gratitude a habit for you and your child. To ramp up the gratitude in your home, try to make talking about the good things that happened today part of the dinnertime conversation and/or your nightly routine.
Let them do it – While getting children to participate in household chores may seem like a chore, it’s the best way to teach them that time and effort are valuable and should be appreciated. In participating, children also build a sense of work ethic and responsibility.
Appreciate it – When they receive something, no matter how big or small, encourage them to focus on the thought behind the gift or kind act. “That was so nice of your friend to draw that for you. You must be a very special friend to him.” Attaching meaning to acts of giving will create a deeper appreciation for them.
Say ‘no’ to it – Kids are sure to ask for toys, games, and candy – especially around the holidays. It’s nearly impossible to feel grateful when you are given everything you want. Don’t be afraid to let your child know that you don’t have an infinite supply of money. Teach them from an early age that people work to earn money to support themselves and their families. When your child asks for things, it’s ok to say, “Would you like to put that on your wish list?” Or, “Why don’t you save up your allowance or birthday money to buy it?” Saying ‘no’ does not make you a bad parent – it teaches children that things are earned, and it helps them better appreciate what they have.
Share it – Think of ways to share your gratitude with others. Have your child write a special thank you note to someone who has been kind to them. Go through old toys or clothes to donate them and talk about how grateful someone else will be to receive them.
Wait for it – Don’t expect gratitude to flourish overnight. Like most values and good habits we hope to instill in our children, being thankful requires ongoing reinforcement and a lot of effort. But you’ll surely be grateful when your efforts pay off with an attitude of gratitude!
Cranium Academy offers a completely unique preschool through fifth grade private school experience, plus unforgettable summer camps, birthday parties, after school programs, and more! Now serving more of the Orlando area with our Winter Garden – Windermere preschool and elementary school location and our brand new East Orlando location near Lake Nona.