In these days leading up to thanksgiving, I’m making it my personal quest to be more grateful. I’m taking time to be mindful for the small and the big and the mysterious and the mundane. But I started wondering about my 3-year-old son. How exactly do I teach him to be grateful?
The one thing I know is that grateful parents raise grateful kids. So aside from voicing my gratitude to him aloud about any and everything, I’m using these five unconventional methods to help him develop a thankful little heart.
Happy = Grateful
Gratitude can be a tough word for kids to grasp, but all kids know what happy is. So anytime you talk about being grateful for something express how it makes you so happy. For example: “Today at the store, you were so good and that made me so happy and thankful! Thank you for being such a big helper!”
If you do this enough kids will start to understand that things that make them happy deserve a big thanks!
Most kids love to role play. Especially with their favorite toys. I use role play as a time to talk about everything from the importance of listening to more abstract principles like gratitude. It goes something like this.
Mr. Frog: “I am so happy you brought me this yummy food. Thank you so much! Mr. Pig, aren’t you happy for this food?”
You get the picture. I illustrate a character voicing their gratitude and saying thank you. It’s so simple but using role play allows you unlimited access to your child that you can leverage in amazing ways.
Make a simple paper chain with strips of paper, but before you do write on them questions like this: “what’s one thing you got for your birthday that you love? What dinner makes you thankful and happy?”
In the days leading up to thanksgiving, cut links from the chain and read the questions out loud. Ask follow up questions about feeling happy, proud and thankful about your kids’ favorite things.
This is a sweet term my grandmother has always used to mean small gifts given for no reason. Have your kids make “happies” for people they are “happy and thankful for.” Sending happies in the mail is also something fun they will enjoy. Kindness and gratitude are so closely tied; it’s easy to teach both at the same.
Sometimes kids can express themselves best through pictures. Even toddlers like to draw and paint. Even if we can’t tell what it is, they pretend they can! Ask your kids to draw something that makes them happy–something they are grateful for. Maybe suggest they draw a picture of their friends or pets. Hang the pictures somewhere you can all see them and refer to them each day. Simple acts like this will help grow gratitude slowly but in a meaningful way.
Tell us: What’s a way you find helpful in teaching your children to be grateful?