Gratitude is an indispensable human trait, not just socially polite or a contrived positive thinking trick. According to research published in the Washington Post, adults who are generally grateful are happier, sleep better, have better relationships and more energy. They are less likely to be materialistic, depressed or alcoholics and have greater resistance to viral infections.
Children as well benefit from having an ingrained sense of gratitude. They have a greater sense of satisfaction, get better grades, complain less and set higher goals than children who are not grateful.
Gratitude can be taught
The beauty of this study was the realization that gratitude can be taught. If you personally are lacking in a sense of gratitude, cultivating it in your own life while teaching your children will have a doubly positive effect. “A lot of these findings are things we learned in kindergarten or our grandmothers told us, but we now have scientific evidence to prove them,” says Jeffrey J. Froh, an assistant professor of psychology at Hofstra University.
5 Ways to Cultivate More Gratitude, Less Attitude in Your Children
Gratitude Calendar – A large family calendar can be home to all the things your family is thankful for. Write a brief entry each day to express gratitude for something in your life. Maybe the youngest is thankful for ice cream on a hot day, or dad is thankful for the traffic-free trip home. Every person does not need an entry every day, but over the course of the year, all the little things add up and serve as an excellent reminder to be thankful.
Express Thankfulness – Model thankfulness in how you conduct yourself. Thank your child’s teacher, thank the cashier, thank your husband, and thank your children. Sincerely showing appreciation is a good way to cultivate gratitude in your own life as well as passing on a legacy to your children.
Volunteer – As cliché as this may sound, cultivating gratitude can be achieved by helping others. Step out and help a neighbor, volunteer at a nursing home, take the time to work in a homeless shelter or food pantry. Children can benefit from experiencing what it feels like to help someone else as well as seeing the difference in how others live. Helping someone frail, may remind them to be thankful for their strong muscles and energy.
Look for it – Through working on a gratitude calendar, or simply talking about what each member of the family is grateful for, kids can learn to look for things to be thankful for the little things. Start pointing out things that you are grateful for throughout the day and eventually your kids may join in.
Thank you notes – Make a habit of sending thank you notes to everyone, for anything. Kids can start very young by sending a coloring page signed by them, and quickly progress to photos and note cards. Writing down what they enjoyed about a gift or an event can help them remember to be thankful.
Gratitude is far more than just polite manners, if helped to run deep it can change the course of a child’s life. Let them experience more gratitude and less attitude in order to handle all life throws at them with resilience.
More by Sylvie Branch:
Decluttering with Kids: Painless Ways to Minimize the Mess
Creative Discipline Ideas: Make the Punishment Fit the Crime
Take a bite out of bad behavior: 5 ways to stop biting in its tracks