Much to the chagrin of parents everywhere, gratitude doesn’t come naturally to children. Just like tying their shoes and using the potty, being grateful is something you need to teach your children to do.
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To turn your self-centered tot into a grateful child, you need to integrate on-going and real-life lessons in gratitude. Although this sounds tricky, it doesn’t have to be. Teach your little one to be considerate and thankful with these small and meaningful lessons.
1. Demonstrate Gratitude
Don’t expect your little one to do as you say, not as you do. If you want them to thank grandma for the Christmas gift, make sure you do as well. By demonstrating the gratitude you want your child to display, you give them an example to follow.
2. Talk About Gratitude
Your child isn’t developmentally ready to engage in meta-cognition – thinking about thinking. They don’t understand their motivations yet and likely won’t for many years to come. Help them understand what fuels their actions by actively discussing gratitude.
At the end of the day, talk to them about things they are grateful for. Help them by giving them examples from your life. For example, tell them that you are grateful that they picked up their dolls. Encourage them to share things that they appreciate with you regularly to reinforce the notion of gratitude.
3. Seek Friends Who Value Gratitude
During their formative years, your little one is a sponge. Choose the people with whom they socialize carefully. If you don’t like the lack of gratitude displayed by the neighbor children, limiting your child’s interaction with them is wise.
When your child does interact with them, follow this interaction with a discussion of gratitude, tactfully reminding them that not everyone acts in the same way, to reduce the likelihood they call these kids out for their lack of gratitude, thereby creating a neighborly feud.
4. Limit Giving
It is so much easier to just buy that toy than to fight with your child about it as you try to read the nutrition labels in the store. Not giving in all the time, however, is vital. Your child will not be grateful if they get everything they want all the time.
Limiting your giving makes receiving something more exciting for your child and induces natural gratitude, as they really will be thankful when you do relent and let them have a trinket.
5. Encourage Savings
Along with appreciating other people, your child should also appreciate the value of the dollar. Start giving your tyke an allowance early, setting up a piggy bank into which they can deposit these funds.
Talk to them about saving, setting goals for items they would like to buy when they have accrued enough money. Sit with them and count the funds, using the opportunity as a real-life lesson in math as well. When your daughter or son purchases the long-sought-after item, they will be decidedly more grateful for it than they would have been had you just purchased it for them from the start.
6. Say Thank You, Always
There is no such thing as saying thank you too frequently. Start articulating gratitude even before your child is verbal, telling your spouse, “thank you” when they bring you a glass of water or telling your little one, “thank you” when they hand you a toy.
As they develop the capacity for speech, encourage them to give verbal thanks any time someone does something nice for them. Make this a regular practice in your house and you’ll produce a decidedly well-mannered child.
7. Send Written Thanks
The art of the thank you note is lost on many. Make sending written thanks a regular routine in your house to force your child to express their appreciation and allow them to experience natural pleasure that comes from giving thanks.
Start small with your child, letting them doodle on the inside of the cards before they can write to show them from the start that this is an important part of receiving a gift.
8. Engage In Exercises Of Appreciation
Create opportunities for your child to be appreciative. Have them prepare cards for veterans or firefighters and take them to deliver these thoughtful tokens.
As you create your cards, discuss why you are thanking these individuals, helping them understand that some people risk everything to help others and that we should be grateful to these individuals for all they do.