Recent scientific studies show that the more gratitude you have, the greater happiness, less depression and overall greater life satisfaction you have. Sounds great to me, but how do we teach this attitude of gratitude to our kids? Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as teaching them to ride a bike or tie a shoe. It must be cultivated over and over again in the home. Guess where it starts? Yep! YOU! Why do so many good parenting practices start with the parent?
Ideas for Cultivating an Attitude of Gratitude:
1. Model – Parents can’t give their children what they don’t have, so get started. Be intentional.
2. Raise a glass – Each night at the dinner table, go around and have everyone say 1 thing you are grateful for ~ cheers to that!
3. Write in a gratitude journal – Have everyone log good things that happen. It’s so fun to go back and read.
4. Create a list of “gives” instead of “wants” – Have your children brainstorm a list of people they want to “give” to that shows their gratitude. It can be a note, a homemade gift, a gift card, anything.
5. Read books on gratitude – There are so many children’s books teaching about the message of gratitude. Reading is another great teaching tool.
6. Share highs and lows – At dinner, after a day of school and work, everyone goes around and gets to share their high of the day (gratitude) and their low of the day.
7. Write thank you letters – Recognize and thank those around us: teachers, coaches, doctors, friends, family, community helpers, etc… I recently wrote a letter of gratitude to a college professor from 30 years ago. Not only did he feel incredible, I felt incredible writing to him and expressing my appreciation to him.
8. Count your blessings – At bedtime, count your blessings while tucking in your child.
9. Have a blessing tablecloth – At any special occasion, year after year, get out a white cloth tablecloth and give everyone a permanent marker and have them write something they are thankful for and date it!
10. Volunteer – Make giving and volunteering your time a habit in your family.
11. Pray – Say prayers of thanks to your higher power.
12. Fill a gratitude jar – Anytime anyone in your family feels grateful for something, write it on a slip of paper and add it to the jar. Keep it visible.
13. Post it – Use post-it notes to write thank you notes of gratitude and post them around the house for each other.
14. Make photo books – Make gratitude photo books: people you are grateful for, things you are grateful for, vacations you are grateful for, anything!
15. Give an encouragement feast – By now, you all probably know how I value family mealtime. Well, these are words you feast on around the table. Pick someone to be “it”. Then, all the other people take turns saying one thing they love, admire, appreciate about the “it” person. The “it” person says something positive about themselves. Then, it’s the next person’s turn to be “it”.
16. Pay it forward – It may be in the drive-thru at Starbucks, in the grocery line, at a restaurant, etc… A couple of weeks ago, I was at the Dollar Tree and a little girl in front of me wanted a few things and her mom kept saying no. I quickly bought them when I was at the cashier and ran out to give them to her, after asking permission first! Everyone felt good.
You certainly don’t have to do everything suggested on the list. Simply pick several things to implement regularly. The more heart you put into it, the more your children will get out of it! Cultivating an attitude of gratitude now will help set your child up for a lifetime of happiness.