Every parent wants the best for their children. Ideally, every parent wants their children to be happy, healthy and grateful. As a matter of fact, research indicates that modern families classify “gratitude as one of the traits of a healthy family.
It is easy and natural to teach children to say “thank you,” but the challenge is to teach them the feeling of gratitude. The benefits of having a thankful heart and living in a manner where being thankful is a way of life is ideally what every family should strive for. Raising children who live in a thankful state will create individuals who will experience stronger social relationships, life satisfaction, stronger psycholigical well being as well as overall good health.
Gratitude is more than just saying thank you. Gratitude is not just a behavior. Gratitude is an internal experience. According to a research study done in Raising Grateful Children, there is a four-part model of gratitude that concentrates on the items that people give us. The four parts are: analyzing why the items were given, connecting receiving gifts to the feeling it creates, having appreciation for the gift received and showing appreciation for the gift received. The game plan for assuring your child develops heartfelt gratitude is to begin the habit of engaging the 4 parts of the gratitude model, NOTICE-THINK-FEEL-DO. Below are five strategies to foster gratitude within children.
Parents who are grateful daily for the trivial things have children who develop a grateful attitude. As a matter of fact, parents who demonstrate a grateful attitude daily have a higher chance to demonstrate parenting behaviors that foster gratitude. An ideal practice would be to model gratitude by expressing appreciation. Parents should also consider the benefits their children will acquire by seeing them model the NOTICE-THINK-FEEL-DO attributes of gratefulness. These internal behaviors can simply be implemented by sharing thoughts of gratitude out loud.
The decision a parent makes on what type of environment or niches they create for their children is vital on creating an attitude of gratitude. The niches parents create such as afterschool activity to the playground they choose to spend time should be guided by the goal which is creating an attitude of gratitude. Research confirms that parents who choose activities for their children that instill gratitude create children with grateful hearts. This is vital because it gives parents the tools to affect the children’s attitude of gratitude. Parents should be mindful of the environment they select for their children. There should be a balance in activities that foster healthy bodies and competition and activities which engage children in civic engagement and community service. When parent make a conscious effort of creating children with grateful hearts, the choices made of where time will be spent benefit the children in several ways.
TALK ABOUT IT WHEN IT IS THERE
Parents should take advantage of moments when their children share gratitude as “teachable moments.” Using open-ended questions will allow children to remember grateful experiences with greater details.
TALK ABOUT IT WHEN IT IS NOT THERE
The study found that parents found it challenging to speak with their children about times when they were not grateful. When the children missed an opportunity to share gratefulness, when they showed entitlement or simply missed the opportunity to experience gratitude the parent may feel upset, can be embarrassed and discouraged. The question is how does a parent keep their cool and help children to use these challenging situations as a learning opportunity? In order for parents to speak to their children about missed opportunities for gratitude, parents need to start by using the same conversational skills when talking about times of gratitude. Listening carefully to children’s experiences of these moments, through open-ended child-centered conversation, may provide parents with clues as to what is getting in the way of their children experiencing gratitude. Are they making assumptions about how a gift came their way? Are they focusing on something else in the moment that is important to them and distracting them? Do they not yet have the skill of seeing the situation from someone else’s perspective? These are questions that parents need to ponder if faced with this challenge.
By first learning about how children see these moments, parents may gain new insights into how to get these moments back on track and help children to catch opportunities for gratitude when they come along.
REPEAT IT OFTEN
To become proficient at anything, one needs practice, reflection and time to become an expert at the skill. Is challenging for children to analyze gifts received through thoughts and feelings since it demands for them to depend upon other-focused developmental skills such as perspective and empathy. As children’s brains mature and they practice gratitude, the skills become easier. They become proficient in learning to make the connection between thoughts and feelings and this practice becomes a lifelong skill that everyone uses over their life time. As children get older, their opportunities to experience gratitude attitude increases. Children who can develop the skill to receive the gift behind the gift are in a better position to experience gratitude in a deeper manner and by developing this skill they are able to express gratitude to others in a deeper level.
The research to teach parents how to develop children with grateful hearts is vast. Reading all the advice can become really overwhelming to parents. Take it one day at a time, and if support is what you need, in order to be proficient at teaching your children how to live a grateful life, email me for a FREE 20 minute Life Coaching session: firstname.lastname@example.org
The GGSC’s coverage of gratitude is sponsored by the John Templeton Foundation as part of our Expanding Gratitude project.