AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — How to Teach Children Gratitude (It’s more than just saying thank you)

It is that time of year we all begin to reflect and take time to be grateful. Be grateful for all of the miraculous little things in our lives that can be overlooked and taken for granted. It is important to teach our kids gratitude in a world that seems to value overabundance.

According to studies, kids 11-13 who are grateful tend to be happier, more optimistic and have better social support. Grateful teens are more satisfied with their lives, used their strengths to improve their communities, are more engaged and have better grades. Gratefulness in kids also shows them to be less envious, depressed and materialistic. Grateful people overall tend to sleep better and live longer.

Here are some ways to cultivate gratitude in your kids:

  • Teach them to say thank you.
    • The first step in the process. Encourage them to verbally thank others but also write thank-you notes (a lost art). Point out times they show gratitude without prompts from you.
  • Ask gratitude questions.
    • Gratitude has 4 parts: noticing, thinking, feeling, and doing. Parents can ask questions to help foster a deeper sense of gratitude.
      • Notice: what do you have to be grateful for? Are you grateful for the people in your life?
      • Think: What do you think about his present? Why do you think this person gave you a gift?
      • Feel: Does it make you happy? What does it feel like inside?
      • Do: Is there a way to show how you feel about the gift? Does this strike up a feeling of giving to someone else?
  • Perform acts of kindness.
    • Sharing, acts of service, helping out when not asked.
  • Model gratitude.
    • Kids learn what they see/experience. Parents can:
      • Say thank you to others.
      • Talk about the many blessings in their lives and what they are grateful for.
  • Establish gratitude rituals.
    • Make a habit of regularly expressing gratitude to your family.
      • Everyone takes turns at dinner sharing what they were grateful for that day.
      • At bedtime ask your child 3 things they are grateful for.
      • Periodically everyone writes notes of appreciation to someone for a specific reason.
  • Look for the silver linings.
    • Help your kids see the good in things even in difficult circumstances. Ask and talk about what good can come out of things.
    • Be timely in these discussions. If there are really tough situations or a crisis you would want to wait until the right time to revisit the silver lining.

There will be times your kids are ungrateful…. This is part of growing. It does not mean you’ve failed in the gratitude department. Turn these times into teachable moments.