5 Ways to Instill Gratitude in Children
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Write gratitude letters and journals.
Jotting down the things you’re grateful for increases your well-being, according to Dr. Schlechter. So try keeping a family gratitude journal in which each member writes down what they are thankful for. Or encourage your kids to write gratitude letters to those they are thankful for (and let them see you do this, too). Encourage your children to give their letters to the people they are about or to read the letters out loud (if your kids feel comfortable doing so).
Point out examples of gratitude.
When you’re reading, watching TV, or just carrying about your everyday life, point out people who do a great job at expressing gratitude to those around them, Dr. Schlechter suggests. This is a way for your children to identify gratitude and its benefits. “Gratitude is one of the twenty-four character strengths we have and it is the most pro-social emotion,” he says. “It’s like friendship glue, and it’s the most essential [thing] to teach kids in order to increase their ability to create and keep meaningful relationships.”
Ask how it makes them feel.
Many people get into the habit of saying thank you because it’s the right thing to do. But expressing gratitude toward someone makes you feel good, and that should be the reason to do it, Dr. Schlechter says. “What you want to do with all of these exercises is make sure that it makes [your children] feel good and that they know it makes them feel good,” he says. Sometimes people think the entire goal is to make others feel good, but that’s not necessarily the case. Feeling good when you’re giving gratitude encourages you to keep doing it, so paying attention to that feeling reinforce why you do it.