Teaching Children Gratitude
Created by Parentune Support Updated on Jan 17, 2020
Parent 1: “My child is so hard to satisfy…when he wants something, he wants it now, but when he gets it, it holds his attention only momentarily and then he want something else. What should I do?”
Parent 2: “I don’t think my teenage daughter appreciates what we do for her. When I try to talk to her, she retorts, “don’t all mothers do that for their children; you aren’t an exception.” I feel hurt but I don’t know how to tackle it.”
Parent 3: “I want to teach my growing children good manners such as saying ‘thank-you’, but that should not be mechanically. I want them to feel genuinely and be grateful for all small pleasures of life. Help!”
As a parent of a growing child, I too have faced similar situations in life, when I have wondered why my child does not appreciate the effort I put into bringing her up and what can I do to make him a more sensitive individual. In fact, most of my friends and fellow parents would also like to inculcate this fine emotion of thankfulness in their child but wonder how.
In my experience the reason behind this ingratitude is that sometimes parents compensate for their guilt of not spending enough time with the child by spending enough money on her. In the process, the child stops appreciating what she already has and wants more. But, the goal perhaps need to be on how to cultivate the attitude of gratefulness because when she’ll be thankful for all the efforts that go into making life pleasant, she’ll become more respectful towards others.
Here are some suggestions I would like to share:
Show your gratitude in everyday life: When something goes right, even a small job, such as a good meal, say it out aloud “I’m so glad you liked your food today,” or “I appreciate it when you listen to me,” or “Aren’t we lucky to have grandma staying with us.” When you reinforce an idea frequently, it has more sticking power. Have a conversation daily around what good things happened in the day and weave a thankyou prayer as a part of your child’s sleep time.
Encourage your child to help: Encourage your child to participate in simple household chores. According to his/her age, distribute responsibilities such as taking the dog out for a walk, clearing the dining table after a meal, or making their own beds at night—this will make children realize how much effort goes into simple things. And resist the temptation to always step in and do things because the child hasn’t finished it on time or is making a huge mess of the given chore. The more you will interfere the lesser they would want to take ownership.
Do a good deed: Figure out in simple ways how your child can actively help someone else. She can run an errand for the old uncle, help you prepare food for a sick neighbor, or water the plants of a friend who is out on vacation. And when she does the special task, talk about how happy it will make the other person. Also, get them to shop or make something for other family members such as a Father’s Day Card. Children get immense pleasure in seeing you appreciate their efforts and saying thankyou to them.
Say no: Children ask for toys, games, and chocolates—sometimes on an hourly basis. It's difficult, if not impossible, to feel grateful when every whim of yours is granted. Saying no sometimes makes saying yes much sweeter.
Practice patience: Don’t expect gratitude to develop overnight—it will require weeks, months, or years of reinforcement. And start young. A toddler may not understand what the other person is doing for him, but you can make her appreciate the small pleasures of life: “Isn’t the soup delicious? We must tell mom that,” or “look at how pretty the sky is looking at the sunset,” or “how sweet of her (the maid or househelp) to have cleaned your room so well.”
See Gratitude everywhere: Children model their parents in everything so even when the going is tough, do not show your despair. Instead point out the silver lining always. Genuinely feel grateful for all the good that is happening and pass this positivity onto your children.
So, let us raise our children to be the ‘silver lining’—those who can focus on the positive, even as stormy clouds enter their lives today or tomorrow!