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Cultivating a Spirit of Gratitude
By: Wellness Committee Co-Chair Ola Bamimore
“Thank you.” These magic words, said frequently, are so simple yet so powerful. They can make a world of difference and go a long way in everyday life. Kids utter these words after they are given a cookie, a cup of juice, a toy or help up from a fall. Teaching our children to be thankful and show gratitude for both big and small gestures is imperative to raising a whole, well-rounded individual.
“Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.” These wise words by Oprah Winfrey underscore the importance of having a heart of gratitude to live a fulfilling and satisfying life.
Why is it important to instill a sense of gratitude in our little ones?
Thankful children grow up to live happier lives and have a better attitude toward school and relationships. A study done by Dr. Robert Emmons at the University of California, Davis supports this notion. Dr. Emmons’ research showed that cultivating gratitude increases levels of happiness by 25 percent.
Children tend to feel less entitled if taught to be thankful for what they have or what is given to them. Gratitude fosters a sense of appreciation for the interdependence of our lives on others and the community at large.
When do you start teaching appreciation?
From a very young age, children should be taught appreciation. You can begin as soon as they can talk. Remember Proverbs 22:6. “Train up a child the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” It is important to start as early as possible, as lessons in gratitude will be ingrained in them and become second nature.
How do you teach children to be grateful?
Lead by example. — Show them how it’s done. Let them see you show appreciation to people around you in everyday life — at the grocery store, the fast food restaurant, the mall. Never forget to say thanks to your kids as well when they help out around the house. Our children learn best by example, from seeing us just living our lives.
Encourage them to say what they are thankful for. — Many people have a Thanksgiving tradition of going around the table and saying what they’re most thankful for. Why do this only once a year? Why not at every meal you have together or at bedtime? Having children take a minute to reflect on what went well during the day and be thankful for it will build a heart of gratitude for both minute and considerable things.
Thank you notes — After throwing that birthday party and receiving more gifts and toys than any one kid needs, have your little one send a thank you note or card to their friends. In this day of texts, emails and social media posts, it’s sometimes refreshing to get a hand written card in the mail. Honestly, my kids consider this an unnecessary chore. So I explain to them that taking less than an hour of their time to write the cards is nothing compared to the money and time spent by the parents and their friends in buying the gifts and driving back and forth to the party. It helps them appreciate what sacrifices others make for them, little or not.
Glass half full attitude — In every situation, we can choose to look at the silver lining or the bright side. Having our kids always find the good in a situation will help to create a thankful and positive attitude.
Encourage giving back. — Teaching children at a young age that there are others who lack and are in need will foster a heart of compassion and appreciation for what they have. Rossman has various events throughout the school year that encourage children to donate materials and their time toward a cause. These are avenues to inspire appreciation for their lives and possessions.
So let’s not wait until Thanksgiving or the holiday season to be thankful. Let’s teach our children that there is so much to be grateful for every day.
11 Tips for Instilling True Gratitude in Your Kids by Andrea Reiser
Teaching Children to be Grateful by Charlotte Latvala
How to Raise More Grateful Children by Jennifer Breheny Wallace
Rossman School, nestled on a 20-acre campus in Creve Coeur, is an independent preparatory school for students in Junior Kindergarten (four years old) through Grade 6. The school’s mission is to provide a strong, well-balanced education in a nurturing school community committed to excellence. Dedicated to developing personal, nurturing relationships with each child, Rossman’s experienced educators provide a solid foundation in academics, athletics and arts while emphasizing strong character development and leadership skills. Request a free Rossman School brochure here.