Strategies To Raise a Grateful Child - Part 2
Part 2: More tried and true ways to teach children gratefulness.
Posted Oct 16, 2019
I believe an attitude of gratitude can be learned. If it is learned, then parents can actively use strategies to teach gratitude and raise grateful children. Here are six additional strategies for parents (see the first seven in part 1).
8. When Your Children are Down or Blue
Have them make a list of three or more things that they are grateful for. Right now, this minute. They will find that it is difficult to stay focused on the negative when the positive is right there in front of them.
9. Make Celebrations Part of Your Daily Routine
My coauthor Jean Illsley Clarke taught me a life lesson many years ago—one she calls “Celebrations”. She always starts group meetings with what she called “Celebrations”. Everyone shares one or more things they were celebrating in the last week. It could be large or small. Amazingly, it sets a positive tone for everything to come. Make “Celebrations” part of your daily family routine. Try it at dinner tonight.
10. Help Without Being Asked
This is something every parent wishes for! The secret to teaching this habit is an old behavioral trick, “catching them being good”. First, you share an expectation with your children. “Will you please take out the trash when you see it is full without being told to take it out?” Each time one of your children takes out the trash without being asked you say, “Thank you for taking out the trash. I really appreciate your help. It makes my life so much easier.” Remember, “What you stroke is what you get.”
11. Teach Children To Pay All or Part of Their Way
Occasionally ask your children to pay “all” or “part”. This is a valuable lesson for them to learn. It is one of the most valuable lessons I learned from my mother. If you want something bad enough you will have to work for it and pay for it yourself. I was ten years old and wanted a new shiny bicycle. Mom and dad bought me a used bike the year before, but I wanted a new one. Mom told me, “Dave, the bike we bought you for Christmas was all we could afford. If you want a new one you will have to earn it. I understand they are hiring paperboys down at the newspaper. You could get a job and earn the money yourself.” And that’s exactly what I did. Thank you, Mom!
12. Encourage Children to Give Back
Encourage your children to give back. I am a fan of Nathan Dungan’s simple but elegant concept of “Share” “Save” “Spend”. All the money children receive from gifts, allowance, work, etc. are first put into one jar. Then parents decide what percentage of the jar their children will “Share”, what percentage they will “Save”, and what percentage they will “Spend”. Next, I suggest you have your children, explore a charity or cause they are excited about. They will become as passionate as the 18,000 students that got together in St. Paul, MN to celebrate “We Day”. Their causes ranged from buying goats for women in Kenya to raising money for housing for homeless students.
13. Lead a Life of Service: Volunteer
Remember—you are your children’s #1 role model. Grateful parents raise grateful children. Lead by example. Lead a life of service. Many adults do this by volunteering. Find an organization or cause you are passionate about.
While at Concordia University St. Paul, for 25 years, my wife and I along with fellow colleagues and students volunteered to make and serve breakfast for 300-400 homeless men, women, and children once a month at the Dorothy Day Center. Never in all of those years did I walk away thinking, “Why am I doing this?” Instead, something extraordinary happened; my life was enriched! Each time I felt an even deeper sense of gratitude for my life and everyone in it.
Gratitude is Like Planting a Garden
Gratitude, just like a garden, starts with tilling the soil, planting the seed, watering, fertilizing, and nurturing. Then step back and watch as loveliness grows all around you.
Do all things with Love, Grace, and Gratitude
© 2019 David J. Bredehoft
Rothenberg, W. A., Hussong, A. M., Langley, H. A., Egerton, G. A., Halberstadt, A. G., Coffman, J. L., Mokrova, I., & Costanzo, P. R. (2017). Grateful parents raising grateful children: Niche selection and the socialization of child gratitude. Applied Developmental Science, 21(2), 106-120. doi.org/10.1080/10888691.2016.1175945