We live in a world of abundance and our children are constantly bombarded with choices from a very early age. This not only leads to stress but makes gratitude a challenging concept to teach. The feeling of gratefulness, when taught to children, develops a positive outlook towards life that cultivates happiness, sensitivity and tolerance.
The feeling of gratefulness does not come naturally to children. It is a value that needs to be taught to them. This, of course, begins with learning how to say thank you for a gift they have received. But gradually it must extend to a feeling of satisfaction and acceptance.
Children learn a lot by simply imitating the behaviours of their parents. So, one of the most important ways in which children can be taught to be grateful is by setting an example for them through our own behaviours.
One of the ways this can be done is with the Gratitude Jar. Decorate a jar with your child and place it in an accessible area with a few colour pencils and paper. Sit with your child every evening or just before bedtime and discuss what each of you has been grateful for that day. You can draw it or write it down and drop it in the jar. Watching the Gratefulness Jar filling up day-by-day will surely fill everyone in the family with happiness and contentment.
Another fun way to teach gratitude is to turn it into a game. Every time the family sits together for dinner, or even to play a board game, make it a rule to take turns to say what you have been thankful for on that day. For example, every time you roll a six on the dice, you say what you’re thankful for; or list out things you are thankful for alphabetically.
Stories are another excellent way to get the children truly feel gratitude rather than simply expressing it. When children see characters behave in a certain way, they are compelled to imitate that behaviour. Here are some wonderful books to introduce children to the concept of gratitude.
All the World by Liz Garton Scanlon for Ages 2 – 5
Following a circle of family and friends through the course of a day from morning till night, this book affirms the importance of all things great and small in our world.
Andy and the Lion by James Daugherty for Ages 3 – 7
In this retelling of Androcles and the Lion, Andy meets a lion on the way to school and wins his friendship for life by removing a thorn from his paw.
Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are? By Dr Seuss for Ages 3 – 9
This classic book provides the perfect antidote for readers of all ages who are feeling a bit down in the dumps. Thanks to Dr Seuss’s trademark rhymes and signature illustrations, readers will, without a doubt, realize just how lucky they truly are.
Thanks a Million by Nikki Grimes for Ages 4 – 8
A set of sixteen exceptional poems ranging in form from haikus to a riddle, Nikki Grimes shows the power of a simple “Thank You”
Have you Filled a Bucket Today? By Carol McCloud for Ages 4 – 9
Through the effective metaphors of filling a bucket, Carol McCloud shows how our actions and words have an effect on others. With its simple prose and beautiful illustration, this book shows the importance of kindness, appreciation and love.