Do you wish your kids were a little more grateful? Cultivating an attitude of gratitude not only in your kids, but in your family can change everything. When we focus on being grateful in our lives it’s easier to let the petty things go. It is easier to remain patient, even in trying times. Gratitude is the gift that keeps on giving.
So how do you get your kids to start looking for ways to be grateful in the world? Here’s a few ways that have worked for me, and will hopefully work for you as well.
6 Easy Ways to Help Your Kids Express Gratitude
1. Say thank you. Often. To everyone.
Kids learn through modeling. When they see you saying thank you, they will learn that’s just what you do in your family. They will learn that expressing gratitude is “normal” and part of every day life. You can say thank you to wait staff, to cashiers, to the person at the bank, and most often say thank you to your kids. If they do something you like, say thank you! Seeing you say thank you when you receive something or appreciate something will work much better than “What do you say?!”.
2. Tell your kids “I love to watch you ___________”. Often.
Being grateful isn’t always about saying thank you. It’s also about seeing things in the world that you love, that resonate with you, that make you happy. Take time to notice what your kids are doing, and tell them. It’s about noticing your kids, what they do, and acknowledging how much you love to watch them do it. Not necessarily because they are awesome at it, or because they win, but because it brings you joy to watch them do something they love to do. Our six words are “I love to watch you ride horses”. (yeah, I know it’s 7). When your kids see you valuing and expressing your loves they will be more likely to do it themselves.
3. Make a gratitude jar.
Find a large container of some sort, and some scraps of paper. Choose a time of day, maybe right before bed. Have your kids (and yourself) write down one thing they are grateful for, or loved most about the day, or their best moment in the day. Fold the paper and stick it in the jar. If you have some beautiful paper all the better.
When we teach kids to begin to focus on the good things, the things that went right, the things they liked the best they will be building their gratitude muscles. Having them write it down, and even read it out loud helps them learn to express it.
4. Stop. Look and Smile.
I can get really busy. I have a tendency to get annoyed when I’m interrupted. One day I realized I was constantly looking up from my computer with active annoyed face. (As apposed to resting bitch face, which I seem to have as well). One day I caught myself in the moment, feeling frustrated and irritated at being interrupted yet again, looking up with angry face only to see my daughter’s big fat grin, happy to see me, and excited to tell me something. In that moment I wondered to myself… how must this make her feel? When she walks into a room, or says something to me, to get active annoyed face in return? I am thinking it must not feel good.
So right there I made a decision. When she walks into the room, and even when my husband walks into the room I stop what I’m doing, look up, and smile. I show my gratitude for these people in my life by showing them how much I love and appreciate them with a smile. It’s so simple. Doesn’t take a lot of time, but man… it works. (This also works when you pick your kiddo up from school… happy to greet you face).
5. Listen. I mean really listen.
If you’ve ever had someone really listen to you, it’s amazing. Not someone half listening, wondering when they can get back to what they’re doing, or formulating their response in their heads, or thinking about how you can fix what’s wrong… just listening. Deeply. Openly. It’s a magical thing. When you stop and truly just listen to people it’s a remarkable way to show them how grateful you are for them, their trust, and their willingness to come and talk to you. You will also be modelling this kind of listening for your kiddos too. I know it’s hard to do all.the.time… but strive for it. It really makes a difference.
6. Gratitude journal.
Get your kiddo a gratitude journal. I got my kiddo her first gratitude journal this year. I kind of told her the premise. There are spots for 3 things you’re grateful for on each page, as well as fun doodles and pictures. Once I’d given it to her I had to let go of expectations. It was her book, her gratitude. She doesn’t always use it, but some nights I peek in to check on her before I head to bed and I see her in there furiously writing her gratitudes. Some nights she even brings it out and asks me to write my gratitudes in it as well, which I happily do. It usually turns into a wonderful conversation about gratitude, and the best parts of her day… even if she’s had a pretty bad day. You can find many gratitude journals for kids on Amazon.com
I’ve found helping kids express gratitude is so much more than just teaching them to say thank you. It’s about helping them learn to look at the world in a new way. It’s about showing them how to look for the good in the world, the best in the situation, what’s going right, even when a bunch is going wrong. When we practice finding the good, gratitude is a natural consequence.