Gratitude could be called the art of being thankful for the things you have. In a world focused on acquiring more and more things, teaching kids gratitude might seem impossible, but it’s a worthwhile pursuit. Teaching children appreciation for the blessings of life builds character and happiness, even as it promotes academic achievement and more meaningful involvement in school and the community. When you’re raising grateful children, you’re preparing them to be well adjusted, empowered and fulfilled.
When Should You Start Teaching Gratitude?
It’s never too early to make gratitude a regular practice in the home. Studies show that instilling gratitude offers benefits that continue from early childhood into the teens and beyond.
- By age 5, gratitude is a key element in children who are happy.
- By the tween years of 11 to 13, grateful children are happier, more optimistic and more satisfied with their lives, their families, their schools and themselves. They have better social support around them and tend to give more support to others.
- From ages 14 to 19, grateful teenagers are more satisfied with their lives. They know how to use their strengths to improve their communities, they’re more deeply engaged in schoolwork and hobbies, and they have better grades. In this material world, they are less envious of others and less depressed.
It all leads to grateful adults, who are typically happy and hopeful about their future and feeling positive about their past. So to answer the question of when you should start teaching gratitude, the answer is now. The earlier the better, because of course, you can’t change a teenager’s mood from surly to content just by waving a magic wand. Young children who grow up with a grateful mindset are likelier to see the sunny side for the rest of their lives.
Using Positive Parenting When Teaching New Skills
Knowing how to teach your child gratitude is a matter of making gratefulness a daily habit.
There will be new skills to learn, but a positive parenting approach makes it easier to embrace. Positive parenting dispenses with the punitive approach and calls on optimism for instilling discipline and a cooperative mindset in children.
In fact, parenting styles are closely associated with children’s self-esteem, one study reports. Positive parenting encourages parents to be warm, nurturing and responsive, which in turn creates children who get better grades, have fewer behavioral problems and have better mental health.
In this atmosphere, raising grateful children is no longer a fight, because children feel gratitude within themselves and see it expressed by others. Tips for positive parenting include:
- Nurturing physical attention. Hugs and cuddles help your child feel protected and loved.
- Providing engaging activities: Bored children aren’t likely to feel grateful about anything. Make sure there are plenty of things to do that activate the imagination and spark gratitude. It doesn’t have to mean buying the latest new video game. Instead, fill a trunk with clothes for dress-up, or stock up on blankets to build world-class blanket forts.
- Establishing clear behavioral limits: Set household rules that are easy to understand. Explain them to your child in a positive tone, and establish clear, enforceable consequences for breaking the rules.
- Instructing clearly: When your child misbehaves — because they will — respond calmly. Don’t yell. Tell them to stop and what you expect them to do instead, such as “Don’t throw the ball in the house. Take it outside to the backyard.”
- Positive attention: Kids respond more naturally to attention and praise than to scolding. Don’t harp on weaknesses, but instead build strengths.
- Looking after yourself: Learn to unwind, even if it means taking precious time for yourself.
- Setting an example: Your kids are watching. If you thank someone for a kindness or express gratitude for a blessing, they will do the same.
Parenting Hacks for Teaching Children Gratitude
Teaching gratitude is about more than teaching children to say “please” and “thank you.” True gratitude comes from the heart.
Fortunately, parents can try these tips to make gratitude heartfelt and not just a habit. Try these gratitude activities for more grateful, compassionate kids.
- Talk about gratitude: Family dinner is proven to produce happier children, so why not make it a routine and incorporate gratitude discussions into the meal? Name the three things you are grateful for, and encourage your children to do the same.
- Send personalized thank you notes: Teach your child to send thank you notes that state specifically what they love about the gift Aunt Ariana sent. Encourage them to send thank you notes for more than presents, too. When they thank a teacher who helped with an assignment or a friend who loaned them a bicycle, they learn to see the things in life to be grateful for.
- Gratitude journaling: Encouraging children to put their grateful thoughts into words not only crystallizes their sense of gratitude. It also gives them practice in writing skills. Start with a journal that’s just your child’s own. It can be one they picked out in the store or, for true ownership, they can choose their own gratitude journal pages from the world of internet printables. Start with prompts as simple as “I’m grateful for” or “Thank you for.” Let your child answer honestly, even if the thanks are for material things. Schedule a time every day for gratitude journaling, and in time your child will see gratitude opportunities all around.
- Read up: If your child has a hard time understanding the concept of gratitude, read stories together about gratefulness. “Thanks for Thanksgiving” by Julie Markes and Doris Barrette and “Thankful” by Eileen Spinelli and Archie Preston are popular choices.
- Roll a gratitude cube: Call up a printable and make a gratitude cube, complete with instructions or questions on each side, such as “What are you grateful to have learned?” or “Tell someone what you like about them.” Roll it like dice, and wait to see what the cube instructs.
- Gratitude jar: Pick any jar, tin or basket. Let your child decorate it. Keep slips of paper handy, and together write down things that you’ve been grateful for every day or each week. Your child’s thoughts can be generic (“I’m happy for my dog”), or they can be specific (“I’m glad my friend made me laugh so hard today that milk came out of my nose.”) Put dates on each slip, and put them in the jar. Let your child go back any time to read past entries, so they see the ways that wonderful things can accumulate and provide reasons for happiness.
- Serve others: Look for volunteer opportunities for children in your community, from serving meals at a soup kitchen to visiting the residents of a nursing home. Even better, encourage your child to keep alert for opportunities to help the people in their lives — perhaps shoveling snow for a house-bound neighbor, or making cookies for a friend who’s sad. Children who help others feel better about themselves and feel the power within them to make a difference.
- Assign chores: No, you’re not the mean parent for assigning chores. Kids have a lot to do, but so do parents. Chores help children understand what it takes to run a home, and they provide a sense of accomplishment for contributing to the household.
- Give the gift of experiences: Does your child really need another electronic device or toy? Give them fun memories instead. Go to a science museum, visit a state park or plan a family camping trip. Your child will start to see that happiness doesn’t have to come from material things.
CCA Resources for Teaching Children Gratitude
One of the keys to gratitude is family togetherness, and CCA’s online learning infuses family bonding into the educational experience. Online learning promotes family centered education by making parents partners in the process. Here’s how it works.
- Personalized learning: Parents and teachers work together to create learning plans that are personalized to each child’s strengths, talents, passions and challenges. Teachers welcome the input of parents because, after all, parents know their children best.
- At-home learning: Children learn in a home environment where parents make it clear that learning is valued and something to be grateful for. In this setting, children are more motivated to do well, and they feel comfortable asking for help when they need it. Parents, too, can witness when their children need additional support and when they could use extra stimulation.
- Flexible scheduling: With CCA, family values don’t take a back seat to the school schedule. Parents can prioritize travel, community service, faith and family without worrying that schoolwork will suffer. Children can follow their own passions, pursuing high-level training in sports or the arts, because their schoolwork can go wherever they go. Children who spend their lives doing what they love are likelier to experience the things that make them happy and grateful.
Children Find Fulfillment and Gratitude at Commonwealth Charter Academy
With CCA, families are at the center of the learning experience. Families receive a full range of supports to help them transition to online learning and continue to be successful. For instance, our family mentors are veteran, compassionate parents trained in guiding new CCA parents through the procedures and expectations of online learning. Our teachers, administrators and staff are always available to answer questions and ensure every child a learning experience customized to their talents and interests. Isn’t that something to be grateful for? Contact us today to learn additional ways CCA supports families through online learning.