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Janet V. Johnson, MD
Having an Attitude Of Gratitude
Loving Care Pediatrics

Having an Attitude Of Gratitude

Teaching children to be grateful is what all parents want and can attain in surprisingly simple ways such as from sending thank you notes to feeding pets.

Children emulate the adults in their lives in every way. Be they parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings, or childcare providers. Make sure you use “thank you” and “please” when you talk to them. Insist that they use their words too. Remember, good manners and gratitude overlap.

Here are several ways to help with teaching gratitude to your children:

Work gratitude into your daily conversation. Weave appreciation for mundane things into your everyday talk. Pick an “I am thankful for…” part of the day to turn up the gratitude in your home. This can be done at dinnertime or at nighttime just before bed as part of a nightly routine.

Have kids help. By participating in simple household chores like feeding the dog or stacking dirty dishes on the counter, kids realize that all these things take effort. There is a better appreciation for the person who does the chore on a more regular basis.

Provide your family opportunities to serve. Figure out some way your child can actively participate in helping someone else. Even if it is to help cook a meal, bake a cake, or walk a pet for a sick person. Start by encouraging your children to serve other family members, and then help them find ways to actively serve others.

Encourage generosity. Donate toys and clothes to less fortunate kids; it inspires them to go through their own closets and give something special to those in need, as well.

Insist on thank-you notes. If your child knows how to draw or write, let them write thank-you notes for gifts. As they grow, they can become longer letters. Just the act will make them feel more grateful.

Practice saying no. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to feel grateful when your every whim is granted. It is important for us to be reasonable and say “no”. We also have to be careful rewarding our children for everything. We want them to do good because it is the right thing to do, and not because they get something.

Teach your children to be grateful for adversity. When things are hard, or uncertain, or don’t go as planned, we need to teach our children to be grateful. We need to help children see what can be learned from our adversity, and how we can take what we learn into other situations to help others and ourselves.

Be patient. Don’t expect gratitude to develop overnight. This kind of work requires weeks, months, even years of reinforcement. Lead by example and mostly with love. The goal is to give them “grateful eyes”, so they begin to see the need before they have to be told. With time and patience, you will be rewarded with a child who has an attitude of gratitude.

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