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10 Ways to Raise a Grateful Child
Gratitude is a really big word for kids. And I suspect that sometimes we as parents fail at teaching our littles what that word even means. I know this was the case for me when Big Girl asked me what it meant to be grateful. I hate having to define big words because I really struggle with it, so in tripping over my words I kind of said something to the effect of, well it means you show happiness when someone has given you something and you are just happy to have whatever you have. Yikes!! It was true what I said but I wish I could have said it as eloquently as the dictionary did, it means to be thankful and show a readiness in kindness being willing to return the act of appreciation. Okay maybe my girls wouldn’t understand that but it really helps me to know the exact definition for such a big word because today we will be talking about 10 ways to raise a grateful child!!
Now, you may actually be wondering if it is important to teach your children gratitude because you may think that it will come with age but let me tell you it is something that needs to be taught and now!! Here’s why: We had just returned from the store having been spoiled by Grandma. Big Girl had gotten a new pony toy she had had her eye on with a few new candy treats. However, in returning home Big Girl lunged for a toy that Curly Girl had found and was happily playing with. “That’s mine!! You don’t touch it!!” came a seething reply from a certain four year old. I had to pick my jaw up off the floor because I was honestly flabbergasted. Here this child had just received a brand new toy and was fighting over an old toy that she had not played with for months, I’ll even go far as to venture a guess that it could have been over a year. I sighed and headed over to her signalling to her that I wanted the toy she had just grabbed away. With a heavy sigh and a disgusted eye roll she plopped the toy into my hands and huffed off. My first thought was “who are you?!” and then I kind of got mad because shouldn’t you be grateful for what you were just given rather than being greedy and only thinking about yourself.
To be honest, this was a frightening scenario to be in because I could see how trying to appease my four year’s old every whim and fancy had turned her into a spoiled ungrateful punk. “Aren’t you grateful for what you just got?! How can you treat your sister like that?! AND you don’t even play with that toy!! Why can’t you just be grateful for what you have?!” I seethed back at Big Girl. And then her answer astounded me. “What does it mean to be grateful?” Parenting Fail!! Here I was expecting something from my child and she didn’t even know what it was. So after a little discussion and putting down my foot I can tell you that I now have little girls who do show gratitude for what they are given and no longer expect everything to be handed to them. With holidays right around the corner now is the time to start focusing on being appreciative and showing gratitude.
Okay, okay maybe my story didn’t really impress you but the truth is children who show more gratitude end up being better off than children who haven’t learned to show gratitude. Children who learn to be grateful are also known to be more empathetic, kinder, more sincere, and able to find greater joy and happiness in their lives. So here are 10 ways to raise a grateful child
- Don’t Give Them Everything They Ask For:
When children are given everything they ask for, they come to learn that if they ask for it they deserve it and should have it now!! Unfortunately, life doesn’t exactly work that way and so we are doing a disservice as parents if we cater to that expectation. It used to be that Big Girl would constantly ask what she would get for whatever store we would go into because I came to realize that subconsciously I was trying to make up for the lack that was felt in our home. I had to come to recognize and embrace that life will not be perfect and I can’t make up for it by buying my children whatever they ask for. Life is imperfect no matter what your family looks like so really this can no longer by the excuse why you need to buy your little whatever they think they need at the moment.
- Make them work for it
Have you ever noticed that when you have to work for something that you have a greater desire to take care of it?? I love the Eyre’s family because they have such easy ideas to implement in our homes. They are easy to do but take work and time to implement. However, one necessity the Eyres’ recommend having in the home is the need for a family economy. How money is earned and the work that must be put in to earn that allowance or money given. Rather, than buying everything that our littles may ask us for, why don’t we instead teach them to work hard and save up for what they want. That way when they are able to buy whatever it is they wanted the realize the value that comes from putting the hard work in to get it. Your littles will then take better care of that item and truly treat it better than if you would have bought it for them.
- Find time to stop and define gratitude
One of the best times that we as a family seem to recognize gratitude the easiest is when we have spent time with family and friends. For some reason, our love buckets seem to be filled to the brim and you feel such a satisfying sense of peace in your heart. It is during these times that I like to stop and talk to the girls about how they are feeling. They come to recognize that those feelings of contentment where they have no want other than to stay in that moment forever is times where they truly can recognize those feelings of gratitude.
- Make Your Child Clean Up After Themselves
Recently, I enlisted my girls to start helping more around the house and doing chores. An amazing thing happened. My girls (even the 17 month old) started to pick things up and put them away without being asked. Babykins will toddle over to a wrapper that has dropped to the floor and run it to the garbage can. Big Girl and Curly Girl pick up the excess toys they are not playing with after they have gotten the toys they want out. Big Girl recently commented on being grateful for her toys and that she can always find what she is looking for. I feel like as we teach our children to work for something they realize the value in it and no longer take it for granted. Toys were not being left exploded all over the house where they were being broken, lost, or stepped on and that my friends is a reason to celebrate in itself!!
- Have them say Thank You
When I was finishing up my teaching degree I had the world’s sweetest lady and friend watch my two older girls. And she taught me a valuable lesson on teaching our children to show gratitude. She explained that working with children is a glorious job but can truly be pretty thankless and she wanted to change that. So after meal time as the children were putting their dishes in the sink, they would also express gratitude for the meal they were given. “Thanks K for lunch!!” And you know what?? I loved the idea so much we started implementing it, at our meal times as well. The girls now help with a meal time as part of their special time I can give them throughout the day and the girls are coming to recognize how good it feels when their sisters thank them for the meal they made. They get the biggest grins on their faces and will now go out of their way to thank each other for a delicious meal. Big Girl even now will help out with things her sisters can’t do because she said it makes her feel good inside!!
- Serve Others
It is so easy to get caught up in the fast pace rush of how society lives these days. You are running from one activity to the next and it feels like you don’t even have a minute to breathe. But it is important despite the busyness of our lives to teach our children to find times to serve others. The tasks do not have be grandiose (that means really really extravagant!!) or even something that takes a lot of time or effort. We can teach our children to look out for one another and find opportunities to help each other out. Make a bed for a sister who didn’t do her job. Draw a picture for a friend. Help a sibling put on their coat or shoes. Give a hug. Pay someone a compliment. In a world that has become so selfish and self-centred we need to teach our children to raise their eyes up and look outside themselves to those who could use a helping hand. Curly Girl is really good at this and is always finding opportunities to truly help those around her. It is her gift from Heavenly Father because she does it so willingly with a smile on her face. I admire her and am grateful that as a family we can learn to follow her lead and example on this. I am pretty sure that one of your littles is like this too!! I truly think God puts one in every family!!
- Model Gratitude as a Parent
Do you say thank you to those who serve you or help you out?? If we want our children to say thank you and be happy and content with their life we need to also model that behaviour. During a recent conversation with a friend she mentioned that her children had started to make comments about the home they were living in. It was a rental property and this friend was so unhappy with not being in her own place that she made comments about the house being run down or ugly to her children. Shockingly she confided to me that her girls were now using the same statements to talk about their home to her husband. Lesson learned if we want our children to be content, we must also be content.
- Donate old toys and clothes to others
So, I am actually a bit ashamed to admit that before I decluttered my home I had doubles, triples, and even quadruples of items in our home. It started to drive me a little batty so I went on a decluttering spree and give away the things that we had excess of. When I was asked why I wasn’t selling those perfectly good items my response was this. I have been blessed so greatly with the free items that I received that I felt it was better to pass them on to people or places that could utilize them in a budget friendly way so that they could be blessed as well1! When I told my girls how I felt about the extra items in our house they willingly and gladly started to pick toys that they no longer used or wanted and asked if I would give them to a child who could use them.I actually have to share a proud mommy moment of Big Girl. She had recently received Shopkins as a gift and loved them to pieces. She would carry them everywhere and talk about them a lot. She would count them and show them to whoever would listen. It is no understatement when I say she LOVED her Shopkins. So you can imagine my surprise when I ask Big Girl to help me place cans in a bag to give to the Food Bank that she looks over at me and asks if she can give her Shopkins too. “Can you give them to a poor little girl who doesn’t have a lot of toys momma?? Those little words struck me heart and we carefully placed them in a baggy with a card for another little girl to enjoy. Our children have such tender little hearts and now is the time to celebrate that!!
- Set Boundaries around shopping
Before, going into stores I will try to always tell the girls what we will be shopping for. When the girls know that they will not be getting a toy they have come to learn to appreciate having good healthy food to eat. They have also come to appreciate that we have a good working vehicle to get to dance, to friends’ houses, to church and to run errands. We as adults need to set the boundaries around when we can get a treat and sometimes when we just need to be grateful for the food we have in our cupboards and on the table to eat!!
- Praise their efforts
This is a lot like the concept of catching your child in the act of being good. Find opportunities to really tell your little people how proud you are of them. When I think about it, I really have come to think that our littles must have a hard time trying to learn the world around them and contain their excitement for being here. It is so easy to scold, and I know I get in a bad habit of pointing out every little wrong thing that they have done and so instead of scolding. Find opportunities to celebrate their wins throughout the day. As we praise them, they are more likely to praise others for the service that they have been shown.
10 Ways to Raise a Grateful Child doesn’t need to be complicated
Raising our children to show gratitude for what they have and are given does not need to be complicated or hard. Rather, it just needs to be well thought out and then put into practice in our homes. By modelling the behaviour of gratitude, explaining what gratitude is, teaching our children to work hard and say thanks in the end is really all that is needed. Showing gratitude ends up coming from all the little things combined rather than just one single big idea or lesson that we can teach.
Seeing that Thanksgiving is right around the corner for our American Friends. We want to share our gratitude for those who have supported Parenting Puh-lease so far and continue to do so by coming and reading, and by sharing our posts!! We hope that your Thanksgiving day is filled with amazing memories, yummy food and the best company!!
Because oh puh-lease!! You’ve got this Momma!!