Teaching our kids to say "thank you" is important, but truly instilling a sense of gratitude in them is another matter entirely. Gratitude goes beyond good manners -- it's a mindset and a lifestyle.
A recent Wall Street Journal article (2014) about raising kids with gratitude acknowledged a growing interest in the area of gratitude in the younger generation. The piece cited studies showing that kids who count their blessings reap concrete benefits, including greater life satisfaction and a better attitude about school.
A study conducted by Dr. Robert A. Emmons of the University of California, Davis, reveals that cultivating gratitude can increase happiness levels by around 25 percent. It can also cause individuals to live happier, more satisfied lives and enjoy increased levels of self-esteem, hope, empathy and optimism. Other studies have shown that kids who practice grateful thinking have more positive attitudes toward school and family.
Fundamentally, gratitude is about being aware of who or what makes positive aspects of our lives possible, and acknowledging that. When kids learn to think in those terms, they can be less apt to make mindless, self-centered demands. Plus, they begin to appreciate what they have rather than focusing on what they wish they had.
Use this activity to discuss gratitude and reinforce good manners!
Discuss what gratitude is and whom you are grateful for and why
Cut small squares out of colored paper. Have the children decide what color goes with what feeling of gratitude. For example, if you are grateful for ice cream that may be pink or if you are grateful for a friend’s laughter that may be purple, etc.
Punch a hole in each square of paper
Write down something that the children are grateful for, on each square. Encourage the child to think about people, what they like about them and how they feel about others
String the squares on the ribbon or string
Have the children look at each other’s garlands and talk about what they wrote
Note: You can also have the children make a garland for someone else, making the squares about what makes them grateful that that person is their friend
Disclaimer: This presents an overview of child development. It is important to keep in mind that the time frames presented are averages and some children may achieve various developmental milestones earlier or later than the average but still be within the normal range of development. This information is presented to help parents understand, at a high level, what to expect from their child. Any questions/concerns you may have about your child’s development should be shared with your doctor.