5 Ways to Teach an Attitude of Gratitude

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

Teaching children gratitude may seem especially important at this time of year, when many families are preparing to celebrate Thanksgiving.

A sense of gratitude, like most characteristics, can take time to develop. Sure, kids have an innate desire to be good to others but, every now and then, a sensibility of "the world is me" may surface. If you see this behavior, know that your child isn't unusual. Here are a few simple ways to encourage appreciation and teach the power of gratitude:

Make gratitude a daily conversation. Let dinnertime become the cornerstone of family conversation. Go around the table and take turns sharing what you're most thankful for that day. If your child says bedtime prayers, this may be another great time to express what they are grateful for.

Practice goodwill. Helping others is a key ingredient of gratitude, and small acts of goodwill can teach big lessons. As kids grow out of toys and clothes, find an organization that accepts clothing and toy donations. Let your children help pack up the items and talk with them about how their actions are helping someone else.

Assign chores or small tasks.Give your children daily or weekly duties. By participating in simple household chores such as wiping the counter or clearing the table after dinner, kids learn that these things take effort. Although they may not complete the chore perfectly, the lesson won't get lost in the experience.

Embrace the art of handwritten thank-you notes.Saying "thank you" can become such a reflexive part of a child's vocabulary, it can start to lack true gratitude. As an alternative, encourage your young ones to write thank-you notes. This may inspire a more thoughtful thanks.

Model an attitude of gratitude. Kids learn best by example, so let your children see and hear you model the type of attitude you're trying to foster in them. When you're at a restaurant, thank the waiter aloud for his hospitality, or leave a nice note for the babysitter, thanking her for her service.

Learning gratitude takes time. Be patient and keep teaching - you'll soon see a difference.

-Sylvia Barsotti is the Editor of Parenting Content at Highlights for Children. For more thoughts on parenting from Highlights, please visit blog.highlights.com.