Kids’ Gratitude Practice : 7 Habits
Here’s the problem… We all want grateful kids – todders, tweens and teens. What we do NOT want are ungrateful, spoiled, or demanding kids and when we see teeny tiny interactions that set off alarm bells, we move instinctively toward gratitude.
Because a gratitude practice is the antidote to greed (which is the core of ungrateful, spoiled or demanding).
So, we use the holidays to “teach gratitude”. The kids give us the BS eye. They smell our agenda – you are not grateful enough – work on it. They listen to our words all year long and size us up and know if we practice what we are preaching… and if their BS meter (and they ALL have one) goes off, we’re sunk. No learning, no gratitude.
I’ve been asked several times, “How can I teach kid(s) to be grateful?” and basically, how do I not set off their BS meter?
Here are my go-to mom coach practices that have helped me and many clients influence our kids toward gratitude.
1) I work consciously on my own gratitude practice. Before I ever wanted a more grateful kid, I worked on my own gratitude. Every day focusing my thoughts at random times on what’s good, abundant, etc. I wanted to see how gratitude worked before I “taught” him. Funny thing happened along the way – I’ve never “taught” him gratitude. Just been an influence of it. 😉
2) I don’t give him everything he wants. This is an all-year practice as well. There are lists and limits. He always gets what he needs. But what he wants may not be always satisfied (except through grandmas who we all know have their own agenda to spoil – which is as it should be. Spoiling is their job. Restraint is mine.)
3) I ask and expect him to use allowance money to get what he wants. Again, an all year practice. We started this when he was six years old and wanted a Game Cube and video games. I said we’d match him but he needed to come up with half the money – in a year he did. But we didn’t feed him with games. Even those he had to ask for birthdays or earn on his own. Sure, we treated him to a few, but scarcity creates gratitude. How to teach kids gratitude? Let them feel the value of earning what they want.
4) I practice and have taught him to practice donating time and/or money. Without details, I’ve taught through modeling and asking him to donate a portion of his allowance money to a charity of his choice at the end of the year. This is a habit now that he’s 16. At times when we volunteer, this is also a form of giving that helps re-frame all we have.
5) We call out the good of a day. Honestly, I just make this a point to say “Wow! Look at what was in today!” and name a few things as big or little as I feel at the time- the house is warm on a cold night, that we have a great dog, etc. Often he listens and doesn’t jump in, but it’s planting seeds.
6) We write thank you notes. He and I both send handwritten thank you’s for birthday gifts. He sees me do this at the kitchen table. He’s done this since he was six years old and after 10 years of this, I’ve heard repeatedly how grateful of a young man he is.
7) I let him teach me. How? Ask: What do you think being grateful means? Kids 5-20 have an answer. And whatever they say, tell them it’s brilliant – DO NOT CORRECT THEM. I’ve asked many times what my son thinks gratitude is (When you see the good in something) and allowed it to teach me. We’ve had conversations over What happens when there is no good in a situation, or what if we aren’t grateful – then what?. In the discussion, I often use what he told me as a springboard to flesh out gratitude.
I haven’t always known the importance of a gratitude practice. Several years ago, I got the BS stare, and set off his meter ALL. THE. TIME. I knew I just wasn’t very grateful. Instead of pointing fingers to make HIM more grateful, I pointed them at me, and began my own habits that then informed the ones above.
I don’t have it all together. But I do have these nailed down. 😉 Choose just one – or silently find your own magic and influence them in your own way.
And maybe this year, just work on your own grateful heart and let it trickle into theirs. Because by anyone’s standards – that’s more than enough.
Vikki Spencer, The Mom Whisperer, Mom Coach