‘Tis the Season to be Thankful

Teaching Gratitude in the Early Years
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With Thanksgiving approaching at the end of this month, we all have gratitude on our minds. Gratitude is a tough concept for children to grasp, especially infants and toddlers who are self-centered by nature, however, it is one of the most important for them to learn. Understanding gratitude leads to the development of many other life-skills including generosity, maintaining a positive attitude, and recognizing and sharing in the feelings of others. Even toddlers can begin to grasp concepts that lead to gratitude, as they start to understand that they are dependent on others, they are separate human beings from their parents, and caring adults do things that make them happy. Infants and toddlers are still learning to verbally articulate their appreciation, nevertheless, there are ways you can emphasize acts of kindness, care and love. Some ideas are:

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  • Use Language. work gratitude into your daily conversation. Model grace and courtesy by saying “please”, “thank you”, and other appreciative phrases, not only to each other but to the crossing guard, the grocery clerk and other people you encounter throughout your day. Our children are keen observers and watching our every waking move. Have you told your children what you are thankful for today? We can’t ask them to be grateful if we are not. Come home, talk about the happy parts of your day and make a conscious choice not to complain. Incorporate the tried-and-true idea of saying at least one good thing that happened to you throughout the day. Add it to your family routine at breakfast, dinner, the walk home from school or at bedtime. Even children who aren’t particularly verbal can point to things that they are thankful for! Jenn’s family says one thing they are thankful for each day at the dinner table. Jenn says, “It makes such a difference in our family’s attitude after we do that. The whining goes away and everyone is smiling and engaging with each other. It was a tradition in my family growing up with five siblings and I wanted to keep that tradition for my family.”
  • Let Your Kids Help. by allowing young children to be a part of routine household tasks and chores, such as putting away groceries, cooking, gardening, matching socks, or feeding pets, they begin to realize that these things take effort. Pick moments when you have the time and patience to do this as the rewards are great for both you and your child. It allows them to be a participating and contributing member of their family which instills feelings of pride and independence.

    Want to learn more? Here is a wonderful article—11 Tips for Instilling True Gratitude in Your Kids by Andrea Reiser—that has even more ideas for all of us. Enjoy!

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