As a society, I feel we share a responsibility to show and teach gratitude to children. Often, the responsibility to teach values such as gratitude falls upon parents. Although parents may be the primary source of interaction and teaching for their children, we can all contribute by sharing this important gift to future generations.
Gratitude isn’t simply ignoring the difficult areas in life. It is seeing everything. In most cases, there will be a positive and a negative. Gratitude doesn’t mean we ignore the negative. We simply find a way to understand it. How can we teach this to our children when as adults we tend to struggle with it? The most simple method is by example.
One of the easiest ways a caregiver (parent, grandparent, step-parent, babysitter, etc) can display daily gratitude is simply telling your child “I love you” and “I am grateful for you”. This is a simple phrase that even an infant can interpret as positive words of gratitude.
The simple phrase “thank you” is a form of gratitude that all adults can use with children. The key to this phrase is to use it appropriately. When not used at all children may feel ignored and unappreciated. When overused they may require a thank you for normal daily chores. The key is to use thank you at a moment when you are genuine. Just like adults, children appreciate honesty when they are being acknowledged.
Lastly, listening and making eye contact with a child who is speaking is a simple way to convey gratitude. By doing this we communicate that their words, thoughts, emotions matter and we display gratitude for their input.
These examples only scratch the surface for teaching gratitude to children. However, simple steps tend to build and create amazing change. Implementing these three ideas can create an excellent start for a child to see gratitude being expressed and learn how to share this wonderful attribute.