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Monday, November 7, 2016

Growing Up Grateful: 9 Ways to Foster Gratitude in Kids

Photo by Coconino National Forest (Flickr)

Turkey, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie make my mouth water as I think about Thanksgiving. Yum! Even more important than the food, though, is the gratitude we show at this time of year. I want my girls to grow up grateful, and there are nine specific ways in which I teach them to foster gratitude and cultivate appreciation. These tips can work for your children, too.

Start Early

It's never too soon to teach gratitude! I'm sure you've noticed that kids are naturally self-centered, but they can learn to be grateful and show appreciation. Teach your young children to say "please" and "thank you." They can do this each time you give them a snack or help them tie their shoes, and you, too, can thank your kids when they do something for you. This repetition from an early age helps your children develop a habit of gratitude that will grow as they age.

Role-Play Showing Gratitude

One of my girls is shy. As a result, she struggled a few years ago to say thank you when she received a gift. We overcame this challenge through role-playing. With stuffed animals and pretend birthday parties, she finally learned to be comfortable saying thank you. We even practiced showing thanks for a gift that wasn't exactly what she wanted. Through our role-playing, she has become a more appreciative person.

Create a Daily Gratitude Routine

Every day, our kids face dozens of opportunities to show gratitude. We decided last year to be intentional about showing thanks. Before bed every night, we share at least one thing we're thankful for about our day. Sometimes, my girls are grateful for little things like warm jackets, tacos, and friends, but last week, my daughter was grateful that her friend didn't have to go to the hospital. This daily ritual teaches my girls to be intentional about giving thanks daily.

Serve Your Community

Our children are incredibly fortunate. They are surrounded by so many blessings, and I want them to share their fortunes with others. As often as possible, we serve people in our community. We may serve food at a soup kitchen, clean up a local playground, or play with puppies at the animal shelter. I also encourage my girls to look for ways to help our neighbors. They rake leaves, bake cookies, and unload groceries as they give back and serve the community.

Thank Public Servants

Firefighters, police officers, mail carriers, bus drivers, and teachers are all examples of public servants who keep our kids safe and help them. I find that thanking public servants is a way to teach my girls to be grateful. We give gifts to their teachers, prepare goodie baskets for our local police and fire station break rooms, and make cookies for their bus driver. These acts of gratitude teach my girls to appreciate the public servants in their lives.

Start a Gratitude Bucket

Dozens of good things happen to us every day. It's easy to forget those blessings, though. So I started a gratitude bucket a few years ago to remind us to be appreciative. Every day in November, we write down three things for which we are thankful. We read the list before Thanksgiving dinner. This annual tradition is a favorite way to learn the art of appreciation.

Donated Unwanted Toys

My girls are blessed with a multitude of toys, books, and art supplies. I decided that this year, we would donate some of the items they don't use, want, or love. Donating unwanted toys is a great way for my girls to practice gratitude. We give the items to local families and organizations that are in need. I appreciate that my girls are learning to share and be grateful for their many blessings.

Thank Family Members

My girls are super-excited this month to start writing their holiday wish list. They both have clothing, toys, and other items they can't wait to receive. In addition to material gifts, though, I also want my girls to be grateful for our family members who give them gifts. I ask my girls each year to write a list of things they appreciate about their parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. This exercise reminds them that the people in their lives are more important than objects. The list is also a special memento for our family members.

Be a Role Model of Gratitude

I know my girls will adopt my words and actions. That means I want to be a good role model of gratitude. Every day, I attempt to show my appreciation. I thank my girls when they do their chores, I thank the grocery store clerk for bagging my groceries, and I thank my partner for picking up milk on the way home. Showing thanks in the small and big things encourages my girls to show appreciation, too.

I think it's important that our kids grow up grateful. In these nine ways, I foster gratitude in my kids. What other tips do you use to teach your kids to show appreciation and give thanks every day of the year?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

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