The Skill – Gratitude
“Please! Please!” “I’m asking nicely.” “But it’s my FAVORITE!” “You NEVER buy me anything.”
If any of these phrases sound familiar you’re not alone. It’s easy for kids to get greedy and throw a fit to get whatever they want.
There’s a story I read to my kids when they were little. It’s a classic tale of parents doing their best to raise their kids. Sometimes they would buy candy or a toy when they were out.
Sometimes became every time and the parents realized things had gotten out of control. But when they tried to say “I’m sorry, not this time,” they were met with whining, tears and complete meltdowns.
Yeah, it sounds very familiar to me too.
Years ago I was surprised when my toddler age kids started pointing out the greedy behavior of other kids at the store. They would say to each other –
“Oh, look at that little boy. I’m not going to act that way.”
“Me neither,” the other would reply.
At first I was pretty proud my kids could recognize greedy behavior. And I was proud they weren’t asking for everything they wanted.
Of course that was very short lived and soon my kids were crying for candy just like the other kids.
One important thing I’ve learned is it’s far more important to teach positive character traits than point out negative behavior. Yes, of course it’s important to teach kids about inappropriate behavior, but it’s much more important to teach and encourage positive behavior.
Good: talking about negative behavior you want your kids to avoid
Better: teaching positive character traits
The positive character trait we want to teach our kids is Gratitude.
If you’re forever wanting more you will never be satisfied. You literally will never be happy with what you DO have if you are always focused on what you DO NOT have.
The opposite is true – if you are grateful and happy for what you do have, you won’t be focused on what you do not have. Gratitude and happiness are so closely related.
And teaching your kids gratitude doesn’t have to be difficult. In fact, it can be easy. But, it does take regular practice.
The How – 3 Simple Ways Kids can Practice Gratitude
Here are 3 simple things you can do with your kids each day to practice gratitude:
1. Talk about things they are grateful for
Set aside time each day to talk about all of the things you’re grateful for. This can happen during dinner, at tuck in before bed or anytime that works for your family. It doesn’t have to take long – just a couple minutes each day. The important thing is to be consistent.
Ask your kids to tell you something they are grateful for and they will likely give you a blank stare. The blank stare isn’t because they aren’t grateful. It’s because they need to be taught how to recognize and communicate gratitude.
Start by talking about all of the things you are grateful for. Super easy, right? Probably not if you haven’t been practicing gratitude yourself.
One way you can start is by thinking of different categories. Three easy categories to start with are
Talk to your kids about family members you’re grateful for. Tell them three specific things each family member has done for you and why you were grateful. Tell them three specific comforts your family enjoys and why are you grateful. Do the same for nature.
Ask your kids to tell you about what they are grateful for. Once they get started they will quickly realize just how many things they are grateful for.
Remember: be consistent and talking about things you’re grateful for every day.
A Gratitude Turkey is a fun craft and expresses in writing some of the things your kids are grateful for.
2. Serve Others
The second simple way to practice gratitude is to serve others. When kids give of their time and ability they truly learn that life isn’t always about “things.”
Kids can serve others in small ways and big ways, but both have a meaningful impact.
Here are 10 simple ways kids can serve others
- Give a hug
- Hold the door open
- Make a family member’s bed
- Pick up trash whenever you see it
- Reach out to someone who looks lonely
- Call a relative on the phone or send a card
- Do an extra chore without being asked
- Read a book to a younger sibling
- Give a compliment
Encourage your kids to look for opportunities to serve others every day. As serving others becomes a daily habit you will see those positive behavior traits develop.
If you’re looking for service project ideas for your family, check out my post: Change up your Normal Routine with a Family Service Project
3. Say Please and Thank You
The third simple way to practice gratitude is to teach your kids to always say Please and Thank You. Super simple, right? But just like any habit, it is something that needs to be practiced over and over again until it become a real habit.
When your kids have good manners they will start to realize the world does not revolve around them. They will realize everyone deserves to be appreciated and treated with kindness.
5 people your kids can say Thank You to regularly
- bus driver
- crossing guard
- support staff at school
- employees where you shop
- anyone who holds the door open for you
Yes, a lot of people we thank in our life are being paid for their job; however, they deserve to be appreciated and shown kindness.
As your kids practice saying Please and Thank You they are practicing gratitude. Your kids are learning and living positive behavior traits.
The Support – Set an example for your kids
Sometimes the hardest part about being a parent is setting a good example for our kids. Our kids watch everything we do. I use to think I needed to be careful about what I did around my kids. I thought if they saw me act a certain way they would be more likely to act that way too.
As I’ve got older I realized this wasn’t exactly the right course of action. Of course the way you act around your kids can influence their behavior. But honestly, it’s not always enough.
If you want your kids to have certain character traits, you need to have those character traits yourself. You cannot act one way around your kids and act another when they aren’t around.
Your actions and behavior must reflect who you truly want to be.
Follow the same steps as your kids. Try 3 Simple Ways you can Practice Gratitude for yourself. I will be working on the steps myself.
Looking for more ideas and support? Sign up for my newsletter