As parents, it’s our job to teach our kids skills and other things that they need in order to be successful in life. Gratitude is one of those important skills. Use these tips to begin teaching kids gratitude today!
Simple emotions such as happiness, sadness, fear, and anger come naturally to all of us. Gratitude, on the other hand, is a complex feeling and, more importantly, one that needs to be taught.
We are all born entitled: our childhood world revolves around our parents, who usually go out of their way to make sure we are loved and our needs are met. That’s why Teaching Kids Gratitude is so important.
This study shows there’s a link between gratitude and happiness in young children, but there are many others with similar conclusions. Entitled adults were initially entitled kids, and the only way to prevent that from happening is to instill gratitude in your children from a very young age.
Why Do Kids Become Entitled?
What exactly is entitlement? There are many scientific definitions, but in layman’s terms, entitlement is a sense of deservingness, a belief that one is inherently deserving of privileges or special treatment.
Entitled people think they are above everyone else and expect to have everything handed to them without putting in any effort.
In today’s consumer-based world, it’s pretty easy for children to be entitled. In the hopes of keeping them happy and active, we may give in to their temptations during trips to the stores, vacations, and so on.
However, simply giving them things will make them want even more, and it gets worse: they will think it’s their right.
Does your toddler refuse to pick up his toy from the floor, making you eventually give in and pick it up yourself? Such a behavior can seem insignificant but repeat it enough times, and your toddler will always rely on your to pick up his toys.
Why Is It Important To Teach Kids Gratitude?
Children are not born grateful. They don’t realize all the effort you put into their care, at least not by themselves. Gratitude is a feeling that needs to be acquired. Some kids are more naturally inclined toward it but not most of them.
Being thankful can have significant psychological benefits that will also affect the individual’s relationships, and children make no exception. Grateful kids are more generous towards others, have a positive attitude, experience less stress, and increased happiness.
How To Explain Gratitude to Children
Teaching kids gratitude should start early. This means that even if you explain what gratitude means to your children, they may not understand its profound meaning. A more efficient strategy is to offer real-life examples, ask questions, and engage in various gratitude-building activities.
Can Kids Understand Gratitude & Appreciation?
A basic understanding of gratitude for children can come as early as 15 to 18 months. At that time, they begin to realize they rely on their parents for all their needs and that they are a separate individual.
Infants may not be able to directly express their appreciation, but they can definitely feel it.
Starting with age 2, little ones can understand the appreciation for specific people, objects, and even animals.
A few years later, they will begin to also understand the concept of being thankful for others’ feelings, such as love and kindness.
The Top Tips for Teaching Kids Gratitude & How To Be Grateful
Kids are eager to model adults, so using your own behavior as an example is the first thing you should consider. If you are consistent, your efforts will quickly become noticeable.
Tip #1 – Teach Good Manners
Yes, teaching your kids to say “thank you” and “please” is not old-fashioned. It still works! There’s no need to force anything. Instead, make sure you use these words in your conversations and ask them to do the same. And be prepared to repeat yourself 1000 times if necessary.
Positive reinforcement works as well: if they ask for something, but they don’t include the “please” word, you can hold off until they reformulate their demand.
Nevertheless, be careful. Don’t give into your child’s every temptation just because they said “please”. Being polite is a great start toward thankfulness but still far from the end of the road.
Tip #2 – Talk About Gratitude
Gratitude is appreciating the things we already have but take for granted. Feeling thankful for them can be a tough discipline for grown-ups, not just children.
Appreciating the little things is a simple yet effective drill you can go through with your kids on a daily basis. Statements like “The sky is such a gorgeous blue today”, “Look at this flower, it’s so delicate!”, “Our dog is amazing!” will remind your little ones of the small good things in their lives that often remain unappreciated.
You can even work gratitude into your daily conversations with the kids. Usually, dinner is the perfect time for that since the whole family is present. You can all take turns saying the good things that happened that day you are grateful for.
It’s also a good idea to express your own gratitude towards others in front of your children. If you are sending someone a gift, let your kids know how much you appreciate that person and how the gift is an expression of that feeling.
Tip #3 – Perform Acts of Kindness
By actively participating in helping someone else, your child will learn all the ways he can use to express his gratefulness. From bathing the dog to doing house chores for an elderly person or sending thank-you notes for gifts received, acts of kindness are a wonderful exercise for understanding gratitude.
Feel free to mix acts of kindness into your family activities. Doing it together with the kids will only reinforce the example and offer you some quality time with them.
How To Prevent or “Fix” Entitled Kids
Does your child have a difficult time hearing “no”? Is he constantly asking for new things? Are you often asking yourself if you should be more strict?
These are all signs your little one might be somewhat entitled, but it doesn’t mean you can’t fix your parenting mistakes. Here are some practical ideas that can work wonders for preventing and even “fixing” entitled kids.
Tip #1 – Give Age-appropriate Chores
One sign of kids being entitled is their inability to take care of themselves, but also their lack of responsibility towards helping others. Chores may seem mundane, but they are an amazing exercise for becoming more thankful.
Self-care is important, but as they grow older, kids should also receive age-appropriate house chores. Once they participate in tidying up the living room they will surely be more appreciative of parents’ efforts to keep it clean.
It can be tempting to relieve your kid from his duty after watching him trying to wipe the kitchen table for the past 10 minutes, but this is one behavior parents should refrain from.
Be patient, and don’t forget children may not be as skilled or efficient as adults, but they can still get the job done!
Whatever chores you assign to your child, make sure there is at least one that benefits the entire family. It’s certainly important that he learns to make his bed or clean his own room but doing tasks that also help others will allow him to better appreciate the effort when he is on the receiving end.
Tip #2 – Encourage Independence
Independence is an essential trait we must nurture in our children. Kids become independent by learning how to take care of themselves and in general, do as many things as possible without relying on parents, teachers, or others.
That means they know how much effort goes into all sorts of daily tasks and are more likely to appreciate other’s people work.
For a toddler, a sign of independence can be picking up his toy by himself. For older kids, you can closely monitor what sparks their curiosity and allow them to participate in those activities.
Just keep in mind safety comes first. Whatever you allow your child to do by himself, make sure there are no risks involved and a responsible adult is nearby.
Tip #3 – Model the Behavior
You can’t expect your child to have the right behavior if you’re not applying it yourself. The truth is kids watch the adults around them and learn to behave from them.
Parents, grandparents, teachers, and other family members all are involved, although parents do matter the most, assuming they live under the same roof.
None of us are perfect, so you might not have the perfect behavior at all times. It’s OK to cut yourself some slack, but do try to practice what you preach at least 75% of the time. 😉
Teaching kids how to be grateful includes modeling the behavior you want to see AND showing kids how to not be too hard on themselves when they mess up.
Tip #4 – Don’t Give In
We often project ourselves on our kids. It’s natural that you would want to give your little one everything you wanted as a child but never had. You probably would be a very different adult right now if you actually had received all of those things. Difficulty and scarcity definitely combat entitlement if they are present.
If your family is in a good financial place, your child won’t experience any of these issues. Regardless, making all his dreams come true is not a good strategy. Doing this will gradually create a sense of entitlement in your child and he will start to expect more things and “services” coming his way.
Don’t think of being strict as a black-and-white situation. It’s OK to make small exceptions, and there’s no need to be harsh as well. Think firm but compassionate…your child will thank you later.
Tip #5 – Fun gratitude-building activities
The best way to teach something is to not make it feel like an actual lesson. Engaging in activities that teach your kids gratitude will be an entertaining and educational experience for them. Check out these easy gratitude-building activities you can try with the little ones:
- Gratitude walks – Enjoy nature and other small details during your walks with the children.
- Gift-giving – They can also be non-material gifts such as hugs, kisses, and thank you notes.
- Gratitude journal – This can be for kids of all ages. Older kids who prefer who write their thoughts down can do so, while younger ones can draw and paint.
- Gratitude jar – Similar to the journal, the children will write on a piece of paper one thing they are grateful for every day and put it in the jar. Drawing and painting are still options!
Teaching and Explaining Gratitude
This will help your child as an adult and prevent them from becoming entitled
Teaching kids gratitude happens in small steps – it’s not an overnight thing! However, it’s totally worth the effort!
Your kids will definitely feel the positive “side-effects” of gratitude: compassion, generosity, increased happiness, better mood, and ultimately better health.
Even better, teaching and explaining gratitude to kids will help them even through adulthood. Entitled adults are often unhappy and have trouble establishing meaningful relationships. And NO parent wants that for their children!
As tempting as it might be to buy the latest shiny toy your little one is craving right now, not giving in will deliver results if you remain consistent.
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