Gratitude is believed to be one of the healthiest emotions that humans can practice. Being grateful is the kindest gesture that you can show for what you are having and valuing it is the highest form of thoughts.
Teaching kids to be “grateful” is important because instilling the sense of the gesture goes beyond good manners. Experts share the tips on child development and how teaching “gratitude for kids”, can help them become better human beings.
Why is it necessary to teach kids about gratitude?
The art of teaching children gratitude can be tough especially if you have a toddler or a preschooler. However, it is better that you start as much early as possible. Surely, children who are naturally self-centered are pleasant and polite to be around.
However, when your kid learns about gratitude, he/she becomes more sensitive towards the feelings of others. It develops a feeling of empathy in them.
No one is born grateful. Recognizing that someone has gone out of their way for you is not a natural behavior for the kid to know – it is a quality which is self-acquired.
When kids practice being thankful on a regular basis, they experience psychological and interpersonal benefits like:
• They are generous towards others
• Feel less stressed
• stay positive
• Feel happier
• Can perform better at school
• Not very materialistic
• Able to cope up with difficulties effectively
• They are able to focus better
• Fewer health problems
When do kids understand the art of appreciation?
Kids are usually self-centered. Between 1-2 years of age, they get to know that they are different from others. Around this age, your child may not be able to respond towards the gratitude gestures, but he/she surely be able to recognize it and start grasping it.
When they cross the age of 3, your child is able to feel the emotions and the gesture. They are able to express using actions. For e.g., if they have enjoyed the meal or storytelling session with you, your kid is all smiling or hugging you tightly.
By the age of 4, children tend to develop the skill to be grateful for not just materialistic things, but also for the acts of love, affection, and kindness.
Ways to teach kids about gratitude
Encourage generosity among your kid. Doing charity or donating clothes, food, toys, books etc. to the less fortunate people inspires them to become generous.
Encouraging these social skills among your kids will help them develop a sense of gratitude. He/she will automatically feel like reaching out to the needy and help them in whichever way he/she can.
2. Be positive:
Inculcate the habit of saying ‘thank you’ for whatever you have been given. Make it a daily practice, which will help in developing a positive mind frame in your child.
3. Give thank you notes:
The act of saying “thank you” loudly has a deep impact on the things you have done for your kid. This will make him/her feel more grateful for showing appreciation and noticing the act of your kindness. You can do this by giving thank you notes to the people in the house.
4. Be patient:
You must understand that your child will not be able to practice this habit suddenly. It may take a few days, weeks, months or years. Parents need to stay patient and help the children to nurture the habit of appreciation and gratitude.
5. Maintain journal:
Ask your kid to keep a note of the things he/she thinks is grateful on daily basis. At the end of the week or probably after 15 days you can ask them to read it loudly – this will have a positive impact on them knowing of what all things they have received and have been fortunate enough. This way your kid will start valuing small appreciations and gestures, thinking as blessings. Studies have shown that this activity has tremendous benefits on the psychological well-being of the kids.
6. Thank those who serve you:
For the majority of us, we tend to take the work performed by the domestic helper for granted. Whether it is a waiter, a sweeper, bus conductor or someone like them who are serving people irrespective of their job. It is important for your kids to know how to respect such people and be thankful for making their life easier in various ways.
7. Encourage Children To Help:
You can ask your child to give away the toys, clothes, and books that they haven’t used. Promoting generosity in children since the young age will help instill the feeling of gratitude in them. Taking your kid to visit such less privileged conditions will let them know how fortunate they are and will learn to value things.
8. Talk To Them:
Ask your children to name a few things that happened during the day and are grateful for. Set a specific time for one on one interaction with your kids. Many families find their dinner time suitable for this activity.
9. Practice saying no sometimes:
Your kids will be always asking/demanding for candies, toys, gadgets and so on. It is tough, but not impossible to let them know to be grateful for what they have already got and there is no need to make an impulsive purchase.
10. Encourage reading books that promote gratitude:
Books such as ‘Thanks A Million’ ‘Just So Thankful’ ‘The Blessings Jar’ celebrates the feeling of gratitude. These books are excellent reading material for your little ones.
Age-appropriate ways to teach kids gratitude
Kids may not realize the concept of being grateful, but they do begin to understand the gestures of gratitude. When your kid is 2-4 years of age, you can start introducing the concepts of saying thank you, showing empathy, being affectionate towards others. You can do this by
• Tell them about the importance of things that are not material in nature. Teach them to feel grateful for the same.
• Ask what is their favorite part of the day at school
• Writing thank you notes
• Asking your kid to draw pictures of things that make them happy and feel grateful
• Take your child for various donation/ charity programmes
• Allow your kids to help others.
Benefits in their later life:
Kids who were grateful can practice more self-control and will witness calm and peaceful behavior in them. When they become sensitive towards others and think from other people’s point of view they become more caring and can relate to others.
Activities For Practicing Gratitude:
When kids are young, it is easy to remind them to say “thank you” for gestures of gratefulness. The idea is to bring this act into daily practice and make it conscious. The challenge is to develop a thankful heart.
We are sharing a list of gratitude activities that your kid can participate in:
1. Gratitude Jar:
When your child thinks of something they are thankful of, let them write it on a piece of paper and put it in the “Gratitude Jar”. Ask your kid to read those notes loud when you empty the jar. Gradually your kid will realize its importance and start appreciating the same.
2. Thankfulness tree:
A gratitude tree is a simple gesture for your child to show what they are grateful for in a creative way. Ask your child to write something they are thankful for on the leaf (piece of paper in the form of leaf) and hang it on its branch. You can make this a daily activity.
Encourage your kids to write letters of gratitude to all those whom they think have made a difference in their life personally in a positive way.
This includes professionals serving from various segments such as police officers, fire department, school teachers, hospital employees etc. Whenever possible let them deliver the letters personally to the concerned people.
4. Gratitude by numbers:
It’s a game where you have to roll a dice or have any random number picked between the range 1 to 10. Ask your child to speak out that many things of what he/she has been grateful for.
5. Gratitude walk:
Go on an evening walk together and look for things to be grateful for, like the beautiful leaves, friendly neighbors etc.