Life Lessons In Gratitude

There’s nothing more pleasurable than giving your kids a treat or buying them the latest trendy toy, but do you occasionally wonder whether they are being spoiled? Are they grateful for what they have or do they just want more? What do you do to teach your kids to appreciate how fortunate they are?

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook founder and one of the richest people in the world, is determined that his children grow up grateful for what they have. He practices an evening ritual with his daughters which they call “goodnight things”. Each night they talk about what they did that day to help someone, and give thanks for the most important things in life – health and the love of family and friends.

If a billionaire can raise thankful kids, we can too. Read on to discover how to make our kids appreciate what they have.

  

Teach them to practice gratitude

It’s not easy to teach children to be grateful, especially little ones who tend to be self-absorbed, but its important we give it our best shot – grateful kids are kinder and have more empathy. Start young. A two-year-old can talk about what they are grateful for like mommy and daddy, or their pets. At the age of four, children are able to understand that gratitude includes not only material things but abstract concepts like love and kindness.

 

Be a role model

Much of what children learn is through observing what we do and copying what we say. If you are not demonstrating your appreciation for the important things in life, why would you expect your children to? Turn your thoughts into words: “I’m so grateful for our lovely summer days”, “I love spending time with you reading books”, “We are a lucky family because we have so much fun together.” Dial down on the complaints and grumbles.

 

Say thank you and show you mean it

Say something whenever someone does something for you, from the people who collect your trash to the cashier at the supermarket. Thanking people – and meaning it – costs nothing but can make someone’s day. Don’t forget to thank your children when they do something helpful or even when they do what you have instructed them to do, like tidying their room. You’re modelling the behavoiur you want to see, and your kids will feel appreciated.

 

Volunteer to help

Beach clean-ups, CANSA drives, walkathons, neighbourhood support groups – volunteering for these activities will show your children that we are part of a bigger family – our community – and that we show our gratitude for this extended family by giving our time and showing that we care. Of course, it doesn’t have to be formal events. Sending soup to a sick neighbour or delivering flowers to a teacher who has experienced a death in the family shows your children that compassion makes our world a better place. Remember to talk to your children about why you are volunteering to help and ask them for suggestions on how best to do it.

 

Learn to donate

From an early age children can appreciate how lucky they are by donating to those who don’t have as much as they do. The best donations of course, are things that we still value, not items ready for the bin. Ask your child to choose a toy that they are willing to part with. Don’t force the issue. If they are not ready to part with something, have a chat about how their decision is going to change the life of another child. Let them donate with an open heart.

 

Make gratitude a bedtime routine

Use Mark Zuckerberg’s example. Set up a daily gratitude routine. The warm, loving space of your kid’s bedroom just before sleep is the perfect place to express what makes your world a better place and for all of you to name what you have to be grateful for. Encourage your children to communicate love, happiness and gratitude in their own ways. It may be a hug, a drawing, or a happy face. Show them that you love them for their kindness and gratitude.