Cultivate an Attitude of Gratitude

Thank you note

By Ali Langen, Courier & Press, Dec. 8, 2015 – “Count your blessings” is a phrase we hear often, especially around the holidays. But other than when we’re sitting at the table eating our Thanksgiving turkey, how often do we stop to appreciate everything we have been blessed with? When was the last time you paused to acknowledge the many things you are grateful for?

Research has shown that encouraging our children to be grateful has powerful results. According to a 2007 study published in the Journal of School Psychology, results indicated that “counting blessings was associated with enhanced self-reported gratitude, optimism, life satisfaction and decreased negative affect.”

In today’s culture, we are constantly on the go and have little time to stop and count our blessings. We often find the time, however, to come up with something we want and do not have. As a parent, I’ve often wondered how I can encourage my children to value what they do have rather than wishing for something that they don’t.

Here are some tips that may help encourage an attitude of gratitude in your children:

1. Say “please” and “thank you.” This is something my family does already, but I’ve put it on my list because it is so important. You have to show respect to be respected. If I don’t lead by example, how can I expect my children to learn these habits? Kids mimic actions they see every day. Let’s be sure they are imitating positive actions.

2. It’s OK to say “no.” Sometimes it’s easier on the parents to say “yes” and give the child whatever they want. What are children learning if they expect parents to say “yes” every time? Children need to learn that life doesn’t always go their way and appreciate the times that we do say “yes.”

3. Provide opportunities for children to earn things they want — but not always in exchange for gifts or money. It’s almost expected that kids earn allowances or gifts for completing chores or accomplishing goals. In life, not all positive actions or accomplishments are rewarded with physical items. Acknowledging accomplishments with positive reinforcement, quality time and occasional gifts will prevent kids from expecting big rewards every time.

4. Give back. Giving financially to a charity or volunteering allows kids to learn about those who are less fortunate. Serving others will help your children see the gratitude others experience for an act of kindness. Those experiences will have a lasting impression.

5. Educate your children about developing countries. It’s important for kids to learn about the world around them. Living in a country where we have many freedoms, opportunities and security is a huge blessing. Find age-appropriate sources of information to share with your kids.

6. Incorporate acknowledgment of gratitude into your routine. Rather than waiting once a year to count your blessings, take time once a week to share with your family what you are thankful for. Help your children acknowledge the little things that we may sometimes take for granted.

Developing and cultivating gratitude in our daily routines will have a lasting effect on ourselves, our children and others around us. This holiday season, take time to count your blessings and also develop a routine to recognize your gratitude often.