There are many words available in the dictionary to describe our kids. There’s . . .
But grateful? Grateful isn’t a word that first comes to mind when we think about kids in general. And that’s not to say we don’t try our hardest to instill a sense of gratitude in our kids, because we totally do—teaching our kids to say “thank you” is one of the first concepts we want our kids to grasp. If nothing else, our kids will be polite, thoughtful, and thankful.
Except when they’re not, which is more often than we’d care to admit. It often feels like nothing is getting through to our kids, that all of our hard work is in vain. Will our kids always swipe food from our plates without a second thought? Will they always snatch money from our hands for extracurriculars without a grunt of appreciation? Will our kids ever be grateful? Well, there is hope and hard work in the following phrase. Are you ready for it?
Gratitude isn’t an inherent emotion. Gratitude is learned. There’s no better person to teach a kid about how to be grateful for what they have than the most influential person in their life, and that’s you. So, here are some ways to model gratitude to your kids:
1. Be vocal about the things you are grateful for.
Kids are always listening even when you don’t think they are. You’ve probably experienced this firsthand when your kid repeated something they overheard when you really wish they hadn’t. So, give them some good things to listen to. Pause throughout the day and let your kids hear you share what you’re thankful for at that moment. It can go something like, “Do you want to know what I’m thankful for right now? I’m thankful we’re all sitting around this table together at dinnertime.” Or “I am so grateful for this warm cup of coffee this morning.” Or “I am so glad I get a chance to rest my body. I worked hard today.” Nothing is too small to celebrate—in fact, the smaller the gratitude, the more lasting impression.
2. Make sure your family knows you’re grateful for what they do.
There’s a loosely-translated Andy Stanley quote that says something to the effect of, “Unexpressed gratitude feels like ingratitude.” We don’t have to tell you how true of a statement that is because you’re likely living some form of it every day. The saying, “More is caught than taught” applies so well here: If your kids hear you saying “thank you” often, they’ll likely start seeing moments of gratitude in their own lives and start expressing it too.
3. Create a habit of serving others together.
It’s easy to only look inward all the time, especially with so much going on at home. But nothing shifts perspective quite like helping others. Your kids need to have their worldview expanded because truly seeing others and what they experience increases empathy. So, make sure to nurture the spirit of service in your kids and add opportunities to serve into your family’s daily, weekly, or monthly rhythm. You can make homeless kits with the essentials in them to pass out, return shopping carts inside the store, or pick up trash at your local park. Anything goes.
4. Use key moments in your family’s rhythm for gratitude check-ins.
There are natural rhythms in your day when you can talk with your kids—morning time, drive time, mealtime, and bedtime. Make a daily habit of using one—or more!—of those times when everyone says at least one thing they’re grateful for. Encourage your kids that there is nothing too big or too small to share—it all counts. Set a reminder in your phone so you don’t forget this small yet impactful practice of gratitude.