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Teaching Children Gratitude

In our busy lives it is so easy to forget to be thankful. It is certainly easy to forget to demonstrate thankfulness. As we come out of a heavy winter and welcome each and every sign of sunshine and warmth, springtime is an excellent time to reconnect with this value and remind ourselves and our children how important it is to be grateful.

Send ‘Thank You’ Cards

This is the most obvious way to teach children gratitude despite it being slightly out of fashion. It is much more convenient to drop someone a text or a Facebook message to say ‘thank you’ instead of sitting down with our children to create and post a ‘thank you’ note. It is for this very reason though, that ‘thank you’ notes are so valuable and that going through the process of creating (and mailing) them helps to teach our children to be consciously grateful. Take time to write ‘thank you’ notes for gifts or when someone has been thoughtful. Such notes can also be a simple follow up after friends have come to visit; “…it was so lovely to spend the day with you and your family, thank you for coming around!”

Say ‘Thank You’ at Home

Do we really need to say ‘Thank You’ at home? Is it necessary to thank each other when we just meander through each day together ~ behaving normally? Of course it is. Expressing thankfulness is, in many ways, just a habit – a good habit – and like any habit it needs repetition to stick. Thank each other for simple things. Practice naturally tacking the words ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ on to all questions and requests;

“Can someone please turn on the hall light? Thank you!”

“Will you please pass the salt? Thank you!”

“Thank you for putting your shoes in the basket”

If gratitude comes easily at home it will come easier in all of life.

 Model Gratitude

As in all things, children learn through observation and role play. If they see us modelling gratitude they will learn to be grateful also. We can model gratitude by thanking each other and demonstrating kindness. Let our children believe that gratitude is an important element in all of our relationships

Bless Each Meal

If we were thankful for nothing else, being thankful for food and the fact we are able to share meal times together must be the most important thing on our gratitude lists. Taking time to eat together and can be celebrated with a simple blessing such as this Waldorf blessing:

Blessings on the blossoms

Blessings on the roots

Blessings on the leaves and stems and blessings on the fruits

And blessings on the meal.

Care and Respect Belongings

We learn to be thankful when we begin to realise the value of things. We can encourage our children to treat things with care – not because they cost a certain amount but because we are thankful for the things we own. We can do this by taking time to tidy and care for even our smallest belongings

Encourage Children to Say ‘Thank You’

Words are powerful. When something is said out loud it takes on meaning, it effects change. This is true for negative language but it also true for positive language. Just as words can hurt, they can also heal. Positive words strengthen relationships, they build confidence, and they create joy. Saying ‘thank you’ is one of the simplest ways to use words positively. ‘Thank you’ represents humility, respect and gratitude; even if it is said just out of habit. Quietly and gently remind children  to say ‘thank you’. Practice it together until it comes easily and automatically.

©photo by D. Sharon Pruitt is licensed under CC BY 2.0 


starr pic black and whiteStarr Meneely is the owner and editor of The Mother Magazine and the author of the children’s picture book “What A Lovely Sound!” (illustrated by Susan Merrick). She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Piano Performance from the University of Alaska where she studied under Dr. Timothy Smith. She has been a regular writer for The Mother Magazine for several years. Starr edits and writes in a little village in Surrey, UK where she lives with her husband and four children

Ashley Meneely

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