Teaching Kids Gratitude
By Patience Domowski, LCSW
In today’s day and age it's hard to raise grateful kids because they are used to getting everything they want and right away. We live in an instant coffee and on demand world. Also the parenting culture today is to provide everything for the kids as soon as possible to make them be happy. As nice as it is to get things right away and provide things for your kids that they want, the problem is that they can get too used to it and not really appreciate what they are given. My advice would be to sometimes give them things they want- like birthday presents, and vacations, but not giving them things constantly or as soon as they ask for it. Have them work for things they want instead- doing extra chores at home or for neighbors to earn money to buy something they want to save up for can teach them the value of things and they will appreciate the things they worked for much more. Encouraging kids to say ‘Thank you’ regularly to everyone even for small things like the waitress handing you a drink, or a cashier giving you a sticker, or even thanking a doctor after a visit. Having kids involved in some volunteer work can be extremely helpful as well- not only do they get a sense of others in need out there but they get a nice feeling of helping others which can help instill some gratitude for what they already have.
Here’s a list of some practical suggestions for teaching kids to be grateful.
Don’t give them everything they want! It's okay to say ‘No’ or ‘Wait’, or ‘Work for it’.
Have them work for some things/earn money to buy things they want (it’s okay if it takes a long time to save up for something big!)
Model gratitude and saying thank you yourself as a parent
Occasionally go around the dinner table and say something you are grateful for- if creative, make a poster list and keep adding to it so kids can see all the things they have and should be grateful for on a regular basis
Volunteer- find a program in the community or at church that allows children to help, or start your own project collecting winter coats, school backpacks, or food to donate
Go to a third world country- doing missions/volunteering, not tourism to see how others without live
Make them say ‘Thank you’ to others, soon it will become ingrained in their heads
Have them send ‘Thank you’ notes/cards for gifts they received for birthdays, holidays,
Have the children help go through old items in the home like clothes or toys they don’t need anymore and give to a charity- have the kids be a part of this. A good time is before Christmas or before a season change.