You know that instilling good life values to your children is important – and for most of us, this starts with teaching them to say, “thank you”.
But beyond saying “thank you”, it is also equally important to inculcate a sense of gratitude in them. Turns out, gratitude goes beyond having good manners; it is a mindset and a way of life that comes naturally once we truly understand its purpose in our everyday life.
Why is Gratitude Important?
As reported in the findings of a 2019 study in the Journal of Happiness Studies, gratitude is linked to immense happiness in children aged 5 and below. What this means is that when kids are instilled with gratitude from a young age, they grow up to be happier as adults.
What’s more, a 2008 study published in the Journal of School Psychology stated that grateful teens aged 11 to 13 tend to be happier, more optimistic and enjoy better social support. They also report greater satisfaction with most aspects of their lives such as their schools, families, communities, friends and themselves. With this, grateful kids also tend to provide social support to those around them as well.
Apart from improving our satisfaction of life as a whole, gratitude also grants perspective, yes even in children. When our young ones practise gratitude, they learn to truly appreciate all of life’s blessings and realise that the things they own and the opportunities they have in life do not simply come by without putting in any hard work.
Children who live life with gratitude tend to enjoy more meaningful relationships with the people in their lives too. They learn to be accountable for everything that they do and to appreciate the efforts and contributions of others that have helped to make things happen.
And so, with that, how can we help our young ones to live life with gratefulness in their hearts?
As with most things in life, gratitude starts at home and here are some pointers to help you get started with instilling an attitude of gratitude in your family.
How to Make Gratitude a Way of Life
1. Show that you’re grateful too!
And this starts with you telling your children why you’re grateful to have them in your life.
Besides saying that you love them, let them know that you’re thankful for the way they shower you with love so selflessly, the smiles and hugs they give at the start and end of each day, and so much more.
When you tell your children what makes them special, this does wonders to their confidence and self-esteem and reaffirms to them that gratitude goes way beyond material things.
2. Name and count your blessings
Make it a point to have your children spend time every day to share some of the things that they’re thankful for. This can be anything from their favourite toy or book to a heartwarming encounter in school where their friends helped them out in their time of need.
When they make a conscious effort to reflect on the good in their lives, this will, in turn, help them to focus on the brighter side when things do not seem to go the way they hoped for.
3. Let them ‘work’ for it
This is where we need to practice living up to the phrase, “all things in moderation”.
Your kids may request for things every now and then, but by getting them whatever they want, the true meaning of gratitude gets diluted over time. With that, they have the mindset that everything will come easy for them as long as they ask, and as a result, they don’t learn to value or respect the things that they have.
Instead of freely giving in to their whims and desires, let your children work for what they want or need. This can be anything from teaching them to save up from their allowance or for older kids, getting a part-time job on weekends to fund their wishlist.
When children take the time to save up, they take full ownership in the things they want as they learn to work towards that. This also teaches them the value of delayed gratification and encourages them to appreciate what they have and what others have done for them in their everyday life.
4. Say “thank you” sincerely and often
The values that come naturally to your children as they grow up are those that they see us living out. Every day is an opportunity for you to model gratitude to your young ones, and this starts with the basics of saying “thank you” sincerely and often to those who cross paths with us.
Some examples include the cashier at the supermarket, the wait staff who takes and serves your orders when your family dines out and more.
When your children see you expressing your gratitude sincerely all the time, they will tend to follow your actions as well.
5. Be polite and respectful
As parents, it is important to show and teach our children the importance of treating everyone with respect. When we do so, they will be more likely to appreciate the efforts and contributions of the people in their lives. This then helps our young ones not to take the assistance and kindness of others for granted, but to appreciate their blessings instead.
In doing so, we also need to bring the message across that everyone, regardless of their age, race and influence or position in life, is to be treated with equal respect, at all times.
6. Look for teachable moments
So, you have made it a point to talk to your children about values and why they are important in life. But nothing is more powerful than giving them the opportunity to put gratitude to practice in real life to truly understand what it means to be thankful.
Be sure to look out for moments in your everyday life that can double up as powerful teaching tools to show your children what gratitude is really about. When they are able to connect the concept to real-life situations, what you’ve taught them thus far will surely stay with them for life.
7. The value of giving back
You know that the phrase “it’s better to give than to receive” rings true, because it really feels great to help others around us.
So, do give your children the chance to live up to the value of giving back as well by encouraging them to lend a helping hand to those who need it. You can start off with simple gestures such as helping an elderly neighbour with their groceries or to volunteer as a family to distribute meals and daily supplies to needy families in the community.
When your children focus their time and efforts towards helping others, they will gradually learn to appreciate the simple things in life such as their health, a comfy home and a family who loves them.
8. Look out for the silver lining in life
It’s only natural that we focus on the things that we’ve missed out in life at times, especially when the going gets tough, and our children are no exception.
When things do not go the way they hoped to be, as parents, we can help our young ones by steering our response towards the brighter side.
Yes, it is tempting (and so much easier) to wallow in self-pity, but we need to teach our children to be resilient. One way to do this is by helping them to shift their focus on the positives that they may have overlooked while they were adamant about having things done a certain way.
What’s the most memorable lesson of gratitude that you have shared or learnt from your children?