Teaching Children About Gratitude and Kindness
Research studies have found that children who learn about gratitude and kindness grow up feeling happier and more optimistic. Kids who understand these concepts have better grades, are less materialistic and experience more social support. They also offer more support to others.
Parents generally try to instil a sense of gratitude and kindness in children when teachable moments arise. Rather than waiting for opportunities to present themselves it’s a great idea to take a more proactive approach.
Here are some steps you can take to inspire your child to act with gratitude and kindness every day.
Focus on experiences not possessions
One reason kids feel dissatisfied is because they’re envious of other children’s possessions. They desperately want the latest gadget or game and feel deprived when they can’t have these things. To help kids overcome envy and be more appreciative of what they have got, focus on the joy to be found in experiences rather than material stuff. To nurture this attitude, put away the devices and spend quality time together. Make Christmas and birthdays about family togetherness rather than presents.
Help kids understand other people
Much unkindness stems from the inability of people to recognise or empathise with others’ feelings. Parents should take every opportunity to help children see situations from other people’s points of view. When your child is involved in a conflict with a sibling or school friend, ask them to think about why that child is upset. When watching movies and reading together, ask questions about what the characters are thinking and feeling. Emotional intelligence is one of the best gifts you can give your child.
Start a family gratitude ritual
To cultivate a sense of gratitude, make this a regular family practice. At breakfast time or bedtime, take turns listing what you have to be grateful for. This helps children notice good things in their life they otherwise take for granted. Developing a positive mindset also helps alleviate anxiety and depression. Once kids have been practicing gratitude for a while, it will become second nature to them.
Perform regular acts of kindness
When kids are encouraged to perform acts of kindness, they learn firsthand how good it feels to help others. This might involve assisting an elderly neighbour to rake leaves, walking a pet for someone who is too busy or doing volunteer work. Children also need to learn that kindness means refusing to engage in hurtful gossip and taking a stand against bullying. Once they’ve experienced how powerful kindness is, they will want to spread the joy.
Take time to say thanks
It’s important for children to say thank you when they are the recipient of other people’s help and kindness. Sending notes to thank a teacher or friend is a lovely gesture, but gratitude is something that should be practiced in the home daily. Model gratitude by saying thank you for the small things and encourage your child to do the same. Kids who treat their immediate family with kindness and respect will take this attitude into the world.
Teaching gratitude and kindness has many benefits for kids and the community.