Being a good model is the first step to teaching your children about gratitude.
As a parent, it can be awfully tempting to spoil your kids, especially around the holidays. And while it's okay to regale them with gifts every so often, it's essential that they learn to appreciate what they have. With that in mind, here are some tips from YourTango Experts about how to teach your kids the importance of gratitude:
1. Model gratitude for your children. Your children can easily see if you are thankful for the things that come into your life and whether you share that thanks with the people who bring things into your life. When you model this, you reinforce not only the behavior but also its importance.
2. Introduce gratitude as a game. Focusing on small things, play a game where each person shares something that they are grateful for. You can play this game while in the car by naming things that you see; you can play this game sitting in a waiting room by naming things that start with different letters of the alphabet; you can play this game in so many different ways. By making it a game, you are allowing your children to learn about all the things they can be grateful for while not making it too serious.
3. Focus on why we are grateful. It is one thing to say that we are grateful for a beautiful day, but it is so much deeper to acknowledge we are grateful for the sun shining because it makes us happier. It is one thing to say we are grateful to have someone as our child, but it is so much more significant to acknowledge that we are grateful that God has given us a child that brings us joy. Are you grateful simply because of things that happen or have you been made grateful at the core of who you are?
4. Gratefulness should not just be fostered about good things. If you are teaching your child to be grateful, then don't miss the chance to express gratefulness when things are less rosy. Can you be grateful after a car accident in which no one was hurt? Can you be grateful for a rainy day because crops need the rain?
5. Start simple. Introducing children to gratitude, and thereby actually expanding their consciousness, may begin with teaching children to say 'thank you' for gifts and nice things that others do for them. It may also include saying Grace before meals. We can point out, for example, that the vegetables or bread we eat comes from seeds planted, nurtured, watered, harvested, packaged, transported and sold by store keepers and involved many, many people who work hard to put food on our tables. Saying Grace helps us remember to be grateful to all who contribute to our well being.
6. Make a list. Writing a gratitude list (or drawing a picture with young children) makes people of any age feel better. I encouraged this exercise with my own children as they grew up and with the people in my practice. I have written a daily gratitude list for 20 years.
7. Serve others. One way to foster gratitude in teens is to take a group to serve at a soup kitchen, help build a home with Habitat for Humanity, or work with a Midnight Run group bringing blankets and food to the homeless, for example. Kids who are lucky enough to have a home and parents realize not everyone has the same blessings. It can be an eye-opener.