Most parents will have started quite early, to teach their children about the importance of simple gratitude. This would most likely have been in the way of teaching them to say things like “thank you” after a good deed has been done to / for them. The question, however, would be - How many of us have truly schooled our children in the art of being grateful?
Easy as it might be, to just thank an aunt/family member for that gift that didn’t particularly wow them, the bigger task would lie in helping your child understand and appreciate the thought behind the gesture. Helping them realise that that is what counts. This is where gratitude comes in.
Having a sense of gratitude can be quite beneficial to children in so many ways.
Gratitude has a number of emotional and health benefits, like stress reduction for example. If one is grateful, you will be less likely to spend your time making comparisons between yourself and others, as you would be much more satisfied and will accept all aspects of who you are.
Gratitude is also great for enabling us see things from the other side, especially for kids, as in the example above. They will be able to recognise and appreciate that nice gesture towards them by another person/child. They will come to see and understand the thought and effort that went into that act even though the other person didn’t have to do it.
This is a great trait that we all would like to instil in our children, as this would enable them relate to other people’s feelings as well feel a sense of belonging in their classrooms and immediate surroundings.
Research has shown that children below six years of age, express gratitude much less, in comparison to children from ten years upwards.
This may be because, from ten years old onwards, children begin to develop and improve their empathy skills. Something which is quite closely associated with gratitude.
It’s all about them being able to understand another person’s experience in order to appreciate their actions and recognise that they are doing something kind or generous for them.
So, how do we incorporate an attitude of gratitude in the children that are important in your life.......
Below, are some easy ways to instil the virtue of gratitude in your children. As you go through your day, show them, the wonderful events going on behind the scenes that we all most usually take for granted.
1. Lead by example.
It is always best to teach your child by using the appropriate words at the right times yourself. Children emulate us as parents, so it would be through example that they will learn best. Teaching your child, the meaning of appreciation is no different than anything else in that respect. "Children Learn by Doing!"
Children will take their cues from you. So, be sure to thank them as often as is necessary. This could be for cleaning their rooms or for helping out with their baby sibling. Show them how much you appreciate them, and others. The idea is for your child to see you being kind, dedicating some of your time to helping others, and showing appreciation for your loved ones. They will, in turn, emulate your acts, whether you approve or not. So, give them something great to copy!
2. Simulate through role play.
Think of games you can play with your child that involve applying the virtue of gratitude. Be the one to whom the deed is done and let them experience how it feels to be on the receiving end of an unexpected, "Thank You!"
3. Teach them how to show acts of kindness to others.
There are a number of things we tend to take for granted, some of which are gradually becoming slightly strange in society. Simple things such as holding a door for an elderly person, or giving up our seat, are a few ways we can show them how others appreciate us and our deeds. This works both ways as it is also a way to put a smile on that person’s face and help to put a lift into that person’s day. This will, in turn, create a good feeling within the person who is doing the kind act as well.
There are so many situations in our day to day lives where such simple acts of kindness can happen as we go about our normal businesses: supermarkets, doctor’s surgery, or shopping trips.
4. Various acts of kindness
When your children are kind to others, let them know that you noticed. This could be the way they shared their toy with their sibling, or offered comfort to a sad friend. Or perhaps they invited someone to play because they were on their own. Be on the lookout on how to celebrate kindness with them and how you can both show acts of kindness together. There are so many instances in which this could be displayed e.g. bake a cake / some brownies etc. for a relative or family friend. Such acts of kindness will generally lead to more positive feelings and a greater connection with others, which in turn helps us feel more grateful.
5. Helping out with age-appropriate chores
Giving your children age-appropriate chores, helps them to appreciate the work done around the home, (keeping them safe, happy, clean and fed). They will come to realise and appreciate the time and effort it takes to accomplish these tasks. They will also come to understand the importance of all the family members getting together to help each other and how this collaborative act cultivates a culture of connecting over shared work. This will teach them to be appreciative of the things that others do for them.
6. Show them how to be thankful for the little things in life.
Have discussions about things and situations happening around us as well as in other parts of the world. Explain some of the occurrences in our immediate surroundings, how certain things work e.g. the energy that powers electricity that we use daily or how water is made available to us as well as the various steps taken to make sure it is safe for us to use. Once your child understands these things, they will learn to have a greater appreciation for them and when you then take about conserving them, they will understand why. These are simple things that they probably usually wouldn’t pay that much attention too and would more than likely take for granted.
Other simple examples could include; having food to eat all the time, friends to play with, and having plenty of toys and school supplies. Showing them examples of other places in the world where these things are not as easily accessible.
Just showing your child the wonderful events that go on behind the scenes that we all most usually take for granted, will help your child think a bit deeper and begin to appreciate these acts that they would otherwise take for granted.
The ability to put themselves in another person’s shoes will enable your child to show more empathy for others, which will help them relate a lot more to others. If people can see how much they have benefitted from the kindness of others, they will, in turn, be more likely to carry out these kind acts to others as well. This what gratitude is all about.
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