Teaching Kids Gratitude

CHICOPEE, Mass. (Mass Appeal) Teaching your kids to say please and thank you isn’t as easy as it seems.  Dr. Tim Hope showed us ways to make the lessons easier and how to teach our kids respect and gratitude.

Teaching Your Kids How to Be Grateful

Work gratitude into your daily conversation.
“We’re so lucky to have a good cat like Sam!” “Aren’t the colors in the sunset amazing?” “I’m so happy when you listen!” When you reinforce an idea frequently, it is more likely to be perceived as just the way that you do things. One way to turn up the gratitude in your house is to pick a “thanking” part of the day. Two old-fashioned, tried-and-true ideas: Make saying what good things happened today part of the dinnertime conversation or make bedtime routine part of your nightly routine.

Have kids help.
It happens to all of us: You give your child a chore, but it is too agonizing watching him a) take forever to clear the table or b) make a huge mess mixing the pancake batter. The temptation is always to step in and do it yourself. But the more you do for them, the less they appreciate your efforts. By participating in simple household chores like feeding the dog or stacking dirty dishes on the counter, kids realize that all these things take effort.

Find a goodwill project.
Figure out some way that your child can actively participate in helping someone else, even if it is as simple as making cupcakes for a sick neighbor.

Encourage generosity.
Help your child to donate those clothes that do not fit any more or give away those toys that are no longer played with.

Insist on thank-you notes.
Help your children to always write thank you notes for gifts. They can draw pictures, dictate to you what they are thankful for, or, when they have become proficient at writing, write their own notes.

Practice saying no.
Of course kids ask for toys, video games, and candy — sometimes on an hourly basis. It is difficult, if not impossible, to feel grateful when your every whim is granted. Saying no to buying such things often makes saying yes that much sweeter.

Be patient. You cannot expect gratitude to develop overnight — it requires weeks, months, even years of reinforcement.

Limit extracurricular giving. Set — and stick to — a no-gifts policy with play-date, Sunday-school, or preschool buddies.

Take the big day slowly. Instead of one huge gift-grabbing frenzy, have family members open presents one at a time. That way, your child can appreciate the gift and tell the person who gave it how meaningful it is.

Stash ’em. Put half of the gifts away (out-of-town relatives will not know, and neither will your preschooler) and dole them out as rainy day surprises throughout the year.

Downplay the presents, emphasize the activity.
Put more emphasis on celebrating — making cookies, attending church, decorating the tree, lighting the menorah, visiting relatives.

Offer an alternative to store-bought gifts.
Children can get very excited about having a donation made to an organization that does something that they are very passionate about, like the local animal shelter.

Take them shopping.
For other family members, that is. Even better, have them create homemade gifts — even if it is a crayon drawing. Have them earn a little money and then spend it on someone else. Children get immense pleasure out of giving gifts and seeing others express gratitude to them.

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