How to encourage an attitude of gratitude

Thanksgiving will be celebrated and gone, but how do you encourage an “attitude of gratitude” all year long in your child? Saying “thank you” is certainly part of having excellent manners, but instilling a spirit of thankfulness in your daughter or son is a character trait a step beyond courtesy, and a definite challenge in a consumer world. Daily Mom shares tips on how to foster an everyday appreciation for both tangible and intangible blessings.


Modeling gratitude

Children learn from their first teachers, their parents. Take a step back and reflect on how you treat those around you. Do you model gratitude? Are you sure to say “thank you” to your spouse and your child regularly when he or she does something right, or something that makes you happy? How about outside the home – to a server in a restaurant? If not, amp up the manners all around by serving as a model for how you would like your child to sound. While they are rudimentary social graces, “thank yous” make others feel affirmed, appreciated, and teaches your child to acknowledge the positive actions of others.

Redirecting a sense of entitlement

Any parent can agree that one of the hallmarks of a “spoiled” child is an overinflated sense of entitlement. There are few things as embarrassing than watching your child open a gift and toss it to the side, or worse yet, announce that he or she doesn’t like it in front of the gifter. Yes, kids are kids, and an understanding of social situations and appropriate responses will take time and maturity. If your child is old enough, communicate that gifts are chosen especially or him or her, and that while that gift may not be his or her favorite (or even close), he or she can be thankful for the thought behind it. Just like grandma always said: “It’s the thought that counts.” Have this discussion before the holidays come around and role play with your child, giving him or her appropriate responses in the event a gift isn’t liked.

Learning through earning

Another way to curb a sense of entitlement is to teach a child how to earn something. Parents often point out how children are “spoiled,” however fail to recognize that they are the source of the material wealth given to their own kids. Teach children to feel pride and gratitude for what they have by giving them an opportunity to earn something. Have a preschooler make a bed (as best he or she can) to earn a small reward, or a grade-schooler pull weeds for that new shirt she wants.

Paying it forward

If you are able to, show your children that your family gives to others. Donations don’t have to be big or monetary. Let your children know that when you collect clothes that they’ve outgrown and donate them, give cans of food to a food bank or put some loose change into a collection jar, that your family is giving something to someone you don’t know who could really use it, because they don’t have much of it. Use your actions as an opportunity to simply explain to your child that they have the ability to help others in need.

No guilt

Don’t guilt your child into “gratitude.” Avoid making your child feel guilty about the things they have, or the things that others are unfortunately without. Suzanne Fisher, LCSW with a practice in Pennsylvania, has helpful suggestions for how to ease your child into the holiday season:

  • “Gone are the days of forcing your child to eat “everything on your plate!”  A better and more collaborative approach is encouraging (and exciting) your child to try one small bite of each new food.  They may be surprised to find they like peas!  A great book to illustrate this point is: I Will Never Not Ever Eat a Tomato (Charlie and Lola).
  • Start easing your child into your upcoming holiday plans by talking it through and prepping them for the events they will be attending.  Try to think of positive stories of each family member, which will help alleviate anxiety about being around new/not as well-known family members.
  • Introduce foods you expect to be served at holiday meals at home first.  Trying something new is a lot easier for children in your home with less people watching.”

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Erin

Erin, aka "Mommy" to a 5, 3 and 1 year old, is an adjunct professor, amateur photographer and sci-fi junkie, mostly in that order! She lives in northeast New Jersey with her much adored husband, kiddos and strange looking but loveable hairless cat and revels in baking pureed vegetables into muffins to trick her children into eating (and liking) them. You can find her capturing the beautiful moments of her life's chaos and calm on Instagram and Twitter.

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