Teaching our children to say ‘thank you’ to the shopkeeper or to their aunt is relatively easy. The difficult part is teaching them to feel genuinely grateful. That’s a longer and more complex process, but without a doubt, very important.
A recent study from Stanford University demonstrated that youngsters who displayed a grateful attitude were happier and achieved higher academic results. It’s logical; ultimately, gratitude is a metaphor that defines positive and constructive people.
Maybe you have the nice habit of asking your kids what they are grateful for every day, or your family is one of the few that still gives thanks before a meal. Today I’ll leave you with other ideas to help you instil gratitude in your children:
(If you don’t understand Spanish, you can read them below)
1 –Reduce the stimuli: the fewer things we own, the easier it is to value and be grateful for them. But to own less we should desire less things, and the first logical step is to reduce the stimuli. Don’t always take your kid shopping with you, change the TV channel when commercials come on, don’t fill your house with catalogues…I’m sure you can come up with more ideas!
2 –Give them experiences rather than toys: a day at an amusement park, a visit to a museum, a picnic… help them learn to be grateful for intangible things such as our time, nature or culture.
3 –Show them the effort behind gifts: for example “look, your friend coloured your card yellow because she knows it’s your favourite colour”, “your uncle bought you a book about pirates because he remembered about that movie you liked”. They will learn to appreciate the gesture more than the material object.
4 –Establish the habit of donating and giving: if they took clothes they’ve grown out of or their toys to their younger friends or cousins they will be able to notice their appreciation for it. If they wash the neighbour’s car, if they bake a cake for the family… Emulation learning is key to acquire new emotions. If your children see grateful people around them it will be easier for them to learn the same attitude.
5 –Establish the habit of ‘bread-and-butter letters’: it’s the term British people use for thank-you letters they send off after an invitation. If you sit down with your kids the day after a party or a supper with friends and ask them to write a letter, they will have to do the mental exercise of thinking why they are grateful. Perhaps the food was great? Or the games at the party were lots of fun? Try using fancy paper and envelopes ‘for grown-ups’. They will take it seriously, feel grown up and make more of an effort. Accompany them to the mailbox and you’ll see how, in a fun way, they learn how nice it feels to say thank you.
Do you have any other ideas for instilling gratitude in your little ones? Don’t forget to share them below!