How many families go around the Thanksgiving table saying something they are thankful for? OK, now how many of those kids sitting around the table truly have an attitude of gratitude? By an imaginary show of hands, I’d say the difference is clear. In fact, I’d even venture to say that those with the most in life are often the least thankful.
Teaching your kids to say “thank you” is one thing. Really having them cop a ‘tude of gratitude is another. Gratitude does more than just warm Grandma’s heart; it is an invaluable attitude that has far-reaching benefits.
Researchers at the University of California have discovered that children who are grateful experience the following benefits: They sleep better, have increased levels of satisfaction and set higher standards. They suffer from fewer headaches and stomachaches, and they have a higher immunity to infections. Kids with a strong sense of gratitude also get better grades in school and have better friendships and relationships with family members. They also tend to set higher goals for themselves than those who feel entitled.
What parents wouldn’t want this for their kids? An attitude of gratitude has far-reaching benefits that translate into complex changes for your child, family and all those involved with your child.
To raise children with an attitude of gratitude:
If you want your child to be grateful, you need to model gratitude. This means distinguishing between needs and wants, reducing your complaints and acknowledging the words you use. Children are watching and learning from you nearly 24/7, not just at those “teachable moments.”
Use gracious vocabulary
Use a variety of words that express a sense of gratitude. Words such as “appreciate,” “acknowledge” and “treasure” can all become a part of your conversation even if you think your toddler cannot understand the words. A lot of words are caught rather than taught.
Do good work
Volunteering can involve stints at soup kitchens, homeless shelters and other places where serving is obvious. But this can also mean helping a neighbor or friend in need. In order to develop a deep sense of gratitude in your family, sometimes it is good to acknowledge people who are struggling in your own neighborhood.
Go around the table
Make counting your blessings a daily event. Verbalize what you are thankful for each day. It can be something small that happened; in fact, that is the point. Taking time to acknowledge the little things helps children see gratitude in action, and it solidifies what is really important.
Seek out positive friends and family
There are those who have a bad habit of only seeing only the negative in life. These influences on your children cannot be completely avoided, especially if they are relatives, but you can avoid falling into the same negative speech pattern when they are visiting. If your kids hear you agreeing and joining in with your own complaints on life, they will quickly find things to find fault with as well.
Thanksgiving dinner will be different this year if you make an effort to implement these ideas. So when you ask, “What are you thankful for?” you will hear your child’s ‘tude — their attitude of gratitude, that is.
More by Sylvie Branch:
Four Fun Ways to Burn Energy With Your Kids
Messy Room? What You Can Do as a Parent
9 Ways to Encourage Creativity