Moms Rule: Teaching your Child Gratitude

Picture this – it’s been a long day running errands and you’re struggling to balance three shopping bags and a two-year-old in the middle of a major tantrum. You’re feeling on the verge of your own meltdown when a kind stranger offers to help you carry your bags to your car. For a moment, you forget the stress of the day and feel that wonderful rush of thankfulness for this kind person who took the time to help. It’s like a reset for the soul. It’s so easy to get hijacked by the hustle, bustle, and meltdowns of the holidays, especially when there are children involved. As we superheat our way towards C-day, we have one gift you can’t find in the toy aisle that will pay dividends for you and your child through the holiday and beyond — the gift of gratitude.

In this Harvard Health article on gratitude, gratitude was found to have a strong correlation with greater happiness, positivity, and overall health. Unfortunately, in our culture of “I want,” it’s all too easy for children to feel unsatisfied and ungrateful. How can we change that?

Pick Any Two offers some simple ways to turn that frown upside down and help children be grateful right where they are. Here are just a few we’d like to share:

Start a Thankful Jar. All you need is an oversized mason jar or other container. Let your children help you decorate it and label it (with something like “I Am Thankful for”). Have a conversation about gratitude and share some things you’re thankful for. Write them down and put them in the jar, then encourage your children to either write down what they’re grateful for or perhaps draw pictures they can place in the jar. Encourage them to think of at least one thing every day. Then, every week or so, sit down as a family and share your gratitude jar contents with each other. Commit to doing this for a month, and see what happens.

Keep a Journal. If your children are older, give them a journal they can write in. A great practice is to think of three things they’re grateful for every day. Stress that the smallest things can be reasons for gratitude – sun on a cold day, warm boots, something that makes them laugh. If your children are younger, they can also keep a journal, but perhaps use magazine cutouts or pictures they draw. Having a journal gives your child something of their own they can keep private or share as they wish.

Thankful Hearts. Give your child a way to say “thank you” to someone by creating a “thankful heart.”  All you need are large construction paper hearts and things to decorate them (crayons, buttons, stickers, etc.). Your child chooses the people he/she wants to thank and does the rest. It’s a great way to spread gratitude!

Serve Others. Raising awareness and giving your child the opportunity to make a positive difference for others may be the biggest gratitude gift of all. Work with your child to choose ways to serve your community – it might be donating food to a food pantry or clothing to shelters, or raising money for a non-profit.  Go toy shopping for toys they can donate to a charity like Toys for Tots for children who otherwise might not receive gifts.

Of course, the key to teaching gratitude is to model it for your children. It’s perhaps the best year-round gift to give you and your family!

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