How to Raise a Grateful Child
Recently I walked over to my son’s room where my four and six-year-old were playing nicely together only to find, upon entering the room, that what they were doing was anything but nice. I should have been warned by the calm silence that came from his room. Clearly they were up to no good. In fact, the floor was strewn with both his toys and hers, a drawer from his captain’s bed had been pried from its opening despite a stopping latch at the back, and more than one item looked to be bent, torn, or in some way damaged from the chaos that had come before my arrival.
The story my children told was one of accidents and attempts to be helpful to one another. Certainly this explained the drawer pried from its moorings. But what about the careless treatment of their things? Are my children that ungrateful that they did not show concern for their favorite toys and lovies?
Raising a grateful child is a goal of most parents, but also one of our biggest challenges. The same child who will burst into tears if their favorite stuffed animal is suddenly missing will in the next moment carelessly toss a normally prized possession to the floor rather than put it away nicely.
While for most of us the battle will continue to be waged each holiday and birthday, here are a few tips for how to raise a grateful child.
1. Encourage Children to Look Beyond “Things” – Ask your children to find gratitude in more than the material items they treasure. For example, share that you are thankful for the sunny day that is allowing you to play with them outside and ask them to share one thing that makes them feel grateful as well.
2. Send Thank You Notes – Even young children can draw a small picture or write their name at the bottom of a card after they have received a gift. Letting children know early that it is important to thank those who give gifts will develop a clear relationship between receiving an item and showing gratitude.
3. Don’t Make "Thank You" a Punishment – While sending thank you cards and saying thank you is certainly important, yelling at your child for not thanking someone makes it feel as though gratitude is a punishment. Wait until an appropriate time – not in front of the gift giver – to discuss the importance of saying thank you with your child.
4. Be Grateful Yourself – Let your children know that you are grateful for them and what they contribute to your family!
5. Donate Gently Used Items – Ask your children periodically to make keep/buy/sell piles with their toys. Not only will this cut down on clutter in your home, but it will also teach your children the value of sharing some of what we have with others who may have less. It will also help them to appreciate what they have even more and utilize those items they have kept.
What is your personal tip for raising a grateful child?