How to Instil Gratitude in Your Child
It's Christmas — the season of gifts. What better time than now to teach your child to be thankful for what she receives? Isn't that the true spirit of Christmas?
By Dr Priscilla J S Selvaraj
Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others — Cicero
‘My child is so selfish and greedy. He hardly offers a word of thanks to anyone. I wonder how I can teach him to be grateful,’ says Mita (name changed), a mother of a 10-year-old. Many children of today are a privileged lot – they do not experience want of any kind. They get all that they ask for. As a result, they have become materialistic and do not realise the value of being grateful. Against this background, teaching them to be thankful is a tough task for parents. If you’re wondering, like Mita, how to go about it, here are some ways to do so. But, before that, let's take a look at what a grateful heart can do to you.
Benefits of gratitude
- Gives happiness
- Teaches optimism
- Boosts self-esteem
- Strengthens relationships
- Improves emotional health
- Grants satisfaction
- Eliminates materialism
6 ways to instil gratitude in your child
- Cultivating a grateful spirit: ‘Count your blessings; name them one by one. Count your blessings; see what God has done…!’ goes the old song. Quite true! Teach your child to be grateful to God for all the blessings that she has received in her life. A grateful heart will ensure there is no self-pity, bitterness, greed or other negative sentiments. On the contrary, it will ensure your child is filled with contentment and happiness. Engaging in community projects for the less-privileged or family visits to orphanages and old age homes can also make your child realise how blessed she is and be thankful for it. At the same time, it will also make her reach out to those in need and be of help to them.
- Expressing gratitude: Get your child into the habit of saying ‘Thank you’ whenever someone does him a good turn or says something nice to him. This simple act of thanking will go a long way in instilling gratitude in your child. Let him utter this word of thanks meaningfully right from the bottom of his heart and not in a superficial manner. Also, teach him to thank everyone involved in rendering some service or the other – the milkman, postman, sanitary worker, janitor, cashier, shop vendor, housemaid, and so on. You can even encourage your child to write ‘Thank you’ notes or cards. A written note will always have a better impact than an oral one.
- Being a model: Practise thankfulness in everyday life – to God, to family members, to friends, to relatives, to neighbours, and to those who render services to you. Be natural about it. Let your child observe your attitude of being grateful and learn from it. It is always better to practise than preach.
- Reducing the impact of materialism: Do not be an over-indulgent parent conceding to all your child’s demands. Learn when to say ‘No’. Make your child realise that he will not get all that he wants every time. Let him be aware that there are so many people without even the basic comforts of life. And, let him also learn to appreciate what he has rather than whine about what he does not.
- Maintaining a gratitude diary: Teach your child to maintain a diary wherein she can note down whatever she needs to be thankful for. Let her do this on a daily basis. Going through the list once a week will reveal how many good things she has received. Once she sees that she will be surprised that what she has is more than what she doesn’t have. Apart from gratitude this will also teach her contentment.
- Setting up a family gratitude jar: Place a jar on a table in your drawing room along with a tray of coloured pebbles next to it. Each family member should choose a pebble of one colour. Every time the person extends thanks to someone, he or she should drop a pebble into the jar. At the end of the month, count the number of pebbles each person has put into the jar. That would be the ‘Thanksgiving quotient’ for that person. Compete with each other to be more and more thankful so that you can up the quotient month after month.
So, let our children learn to thank and be grateful, and let them begin by thanking God as the good old rhyme goes –
Thank you God for the world so sweet,
Thank you God for the food we eat,
Thank you God for the birds that sing,
Thank you God for everything.
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Dr Priscilla J S Selvaraj