Helping Our Community Raise Curious, Creative, and Confident Children
Raising a Grateful Child
It's more than saying "Thank You"
Expressing gratitude is a complex human emotion that requires taking the perspective of others, a skill begins to develop more quickly between the ages three to five.

The development of this ability is linked to the natural course of brain development in the early years -  two year olds and those younger are by nature self-centered!
Learning to say "thank you" is, of course, an important part of good manners.

However, experts remind us that forcing kids to say "thank you" does little to instill a sense of gratitude or appreciation and can actually have the opposite effect.

Berkeley's Greater Good Science Center says that learning to express gratitude as an experience has four parts:

  • What we NOTICE in our lives for which we can be grateful
  • How we THINK about why we have been given those things
  • How we FEEL about the things we have been given
  • What we DO to express appreciation in turn
Children may show more gratitude as they gain cognitive skills, practice using those skills, and begin to connect the NOTICE-THINK-FEEL parts of experiencing gratitude with the DO part of expressing gratitude.
 
Feelings of appreciation do not come from insisting kids feel grateful or telling them what they should feel grateful for.

Instead, creating an environment where feelings of gratitude can naturally arise is the key.

As a practice, children whose parents point out to their children when they have received something (a NOTICE behavior), ask their children about how a gift made them feel, or question open-endedly why they think someone has given them a gift (a THINK behavior), become more familiar with the real essence of gratitude.

Here are some examples of questions to ask young children, adapted from the Greater Good:

NOTICE: Have you been given something or do you have something in your life that makes you happy/feel good? Is someone thinking about you or caring about you?

THINK: Gently encourage deeper thinking. Ask: Why do you think you received this gift? Do you think you owe the giver something in return? Do you think you earned the gift because of something you did yourself? Do you think the gift was something the giver had to give you? If a child can answer no to these questions, then they may be more likely to feel grateful.

FEEL: Help reveal deeper feelings. Ask what about the gift makes you feel happy? What do you feel like inside? Do you think the giver feels happy that you are happy? Questions help the child connect their positive feeling to the gifts that they receive in their lives.

DO: Make gratitude real. How can you show how you feel about this gift? Do you want to share that feeling by giving something to someone else? Motivating acts of gratitude, whether by expressing thanks giving to others, may help children connect their experiences and actions in the world.

Remember to Model Gratitude Yourself

Express genuine gratitude around your children. Children pick up on everything you do and say. Appreciate when your child or partner gives you something, does something for you or appreciates you in some way. 

Share when good things happen for you and how grateful you are. Children enjoy wonderful news and your happiness.

Be generous with your time and attention. The biggest gift you can give your child is time together. A child who gets to spend time with a parent learns he or she is special and cared for. They, in turn, will do that for others.

Engage in family projects that help others. There are so many to choose from. Even a kind gesture to a neighbor speaks volumes. Make it a daily practice.

1) https://www.parents.com/toddlers-preschoolers/development/behavioral/teaching-children-to-be-grateful/

2) https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/podcast_gratitude_entitlement

 
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