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Teach your child gratitude

By Ijeoma Thomas-Odia
23 July 2022   |   3:52 am
In a world where children feel entitled to what they get from their parents, it could be a huge task instilling the act of being grateful for what they have.

Photo credit: Advantage4parents

In a world where children feel entitled to what they get from their parents, it could be a huge task instilling the act of being grateful for what they have. Gratitude, according to the Oxford dictionary, is the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness

Little children especially can be self-centered in a blissful way, hence teaching gratitude from this age helps them imbibe this culture. A 2019 study published in the Journal of Happiness Studies found that gratitude is linked to happiness in children by age five, which means that instilling gratitude in your child at a young age could help him grow to be a happier person.

Practicing gratitude sets kids up to be more sensitive and empathetic to the plights of others, as well as less demanding and entitled overall. While understanding how to be grateful is essentially a lifelong learning process, there are many ways to begin to instill these qualities in your child in a gentle and relatable way.

One obvious way is modeling gratitude. While it helps our little ones embrace this virtue easily, most parents are not faithful to this. Children learn and imbibe most of what their parents do, so if you are not actively practicing outward appreciation and gratitude in a way that is accessible and expressive, there’s a good chance that it will be a much harder concept for your child to learn.

You should encourage your child to say ‘Thank you’ on a regular basis. Offer gentle reminders like, ‘Your brother let you go first, what should you say to him?’ or ‘What do you say to Grandma for giving you a cookie?’ While it may seem like forcing a  ‘thank you,’ it doesn’t stir up any real gratitude; consider it a first step in the process. It can help kids start to recognise when others have given them something, whether it’s something tangible like a gift, or intangible like time.

You should read books with your child, as insight on gratitude will develop from them. Reading with your child is so important on so many levels; your child will be exposed to a variety of wonderful children’s literature that will build their mental and emotional grasp. There are books focused on gratitude to further build this characteristic.

Engage in donations with your child. It could be his out-grown clothes, shoes and toys, ensuring he is involved in putting a smile on the face of another child. This will help instill a sense of generosity, encourage connectivity and empathy.

Ensure you have conversations about gratitude with your child. As parents, talk to your child about what they should be grateful for, what they think and feel about things they are grateful for and what they should do to express gratitude. As your child goes through life, experiences and even receives gifts, these conversations will help increase their emotional, mental capacity for appreciation and gratitude.

Most importantly, make gratitude a part of your day, every day. It could be by expressing thanks after family mealtime or before going to bed, just keep it regular. This daily practice will help your child get into the routine to practice thinking about gratitude throughout their day.

Making gratitude a priority in your home will not only offer benefits to your child but adults will likely get a much-needed boost in happiness and well-being also. Experiment with different strategies to help determine which gratitude practices help everyone best experience and express their grateful feelings.

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