Have you ever had one of those days where you just wish that your children would appreciate you and what they have? That they would say, “Thank you” more often or notice what you do for them? Teaching children gratitude is about much more than saying, “Thank you.” Gratitude in children involves perspective taking and some pretty advanced skills in emotional knowledge. At the Raising Grateful Children Project at UNC Chapel Hill, they’ve discovered gratitude has four parts: Notice-Think-Feel-Do. Parents can encourage their children to experience all four parts by being intentional with each of the steps.
- Start with yourself. Notice what you are grateful for and say it out loud. Even when no one is there.
- Make noticing a routine. Start family meals, bed times, or other times during the day with a moment for everyone to share one thing that they are grateful for.
- Write it down. Start a family gratitude “journal”. For the month of November find a pumpkin and each day have the family reflect on gratitude and record ideas on the outside of a pumpkin with a sharpie. Be sure and take a picture to capture your gratitude at the end of the month.
- Dig deeper. Think about why you are grateful.
- Be curious. When your child expresses gratitude, listen and invite them to think about what happened that invited that feeling. What happened? Who was involved?
- Reflect. In moments when positive things happen in your family or the world around you pause and acknowledge the event or experience. Be present in the experience and focus on the feelings and thoughts that come up for each member of the family.
- Tune in to your body. What does gratitude really feel like?
- Help your children notice the feeling of gratitude. You might ask them to pause and notice their body. Does gratitude feel pleasant? Unpleasant? Do they notice it anywhere in their body? What other feelings come along with it?
- Model doing things to show gratitude. Children learn when the adults around them say, “Thank you,” write thank you notes and are open with their appreciation.
- Give children an opportunity to practice. Regularly. Write thank you notes together. Share appreciations with friends and relatives.