Gratitude is an attitude in the Youngblood house. It was one of the first things that I was taught as a boy and it is the basis of all my professional work as a speaker and communication coach. So, it should be no surprise that my son gets a healthy dose of the “art of showing appreciation” on a daily basis. Being grateful for not only material things, but also for the world and people around him. It is a great quality that my son has and he expresses everyday. I am very proud that he has a sincere appreciation for life and living. Teaching children gratitude is always important and it becomes even more important (and I think easier) this time of year as we head into the holidays. There are numerous opportunities to practice showing gratitude and appreciation.
Gratitude Is An Attitude
A sense of gratitude, like most characteristics, can take time to develop. Sure, kids have an innate desire to be good to others but, every now and then, a sensibility of “the world is all about me” may surface. Entitlement is not a pretty thing and can easily become the norm if it is not addressed and curtailed early on. But don’t worry too much when your little angle is a spoiled brat. We all are every now and then. You just don’t want them staying in “brat mode” for hours – then days – then weeks – then a lifetime!
Teaching Children Gratitude
Start the gratitude attitude early and repeat the mantra often. Here are a few simple ways to encourage appreciation and teach the power of gratitude.
Make gratitude a daily conversation – Try making dinnertime the daily family gratitude conversation. Go around the table (or as you know in our house, it may be the living room floor!) and take turns sharing what you’re most thankful for that day. And the answer can’t always be “the new X-Box!” Help your kids get creative and think outside the box for their gratitude. One day it could be something as simple as the nice lady who said hello on the way home from school.
Practice goodwill – This one is BIG in our house. Helping others is a key ingredient of gratitude, and small acts of goodwill can teach big lessons. Being helpful is easy on a daily basis. Donate old clothes and toys. Ask a neighbor if they need anything before you go to the store. Hold the door open for someone. My son, for instance, makes it a point to put the newspapers on our block on the front stoop of each house he passes on his way to school each morning.
Assign chores or small tasks – Give your children daily or weekly duties. By participating in simple household chores, such as wiping the counter or clearing the table after dinner, kids learn that these things take effort. Although they may not complete the chore perfectly, the lessons won’t get lost in the experience.
Embrace the art of the thank you note – Saying thank you can become such a reflexive part of a child’s vocabulary, that the words can start to lack true gratitude. As an alternative, encourage your young ones to write actual thank you notes and then deliver them in person. This may inspire a more thoughtful thanks and it encourages genuine interaction.
Be a model of gratitude – Ultimately, kids learn best by example, so let your children see and hear you exhibit the type of attitude you’re trying to teach them. Make sure your child witnesses first hand gratitude and appreciation among you and your adult friends. Nothing is as powerful as being a great roll model.
Teaching children gratitude takes time. But be patient, keep teaching. and keep setting a great example. I guarantee it will make a difference.
Rob Youngblood is a Dad, Keynote Speaker, Life and Communication Coach, Emmy Award Winning TV Host, Writer, and Storyteller. Learn more about him at youngbloodonthecoast.com. You can also follow him on Twitter .