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A grateful child is a happy child: ways to nurture gratitude in your children
We know now from research in positive psychology that gratitude is strongly associated with greater happiness. According to David Steindl-Rast, a monk and interfaith scholar who received over 6.5 million views on his Ted Talk "Want to be happy? Be grateful," happiness is born from gratitude. He explains that in living gratefully, by experiencing and becoming aware that every moment is a given moment, a gift of opportunity, we can live happily. In order to do so, all we have to do is stop, look and go-- something we were told as children when we learned to cross the street.
In order to be grateful, we have to look beyond our own needs and wants and think about other people. In other words, being grateful takes us out of our own worlds and teaches us how to be sensitive and empathic towards others, a valuable skill to have throughout our lives.
By nurturing a sense of gratitude from an early age, you can help lead your children to become more empathetic and happy adults. With Canadian Thanksgiving in October, the American Thanksgiving day and Japanese Labor Thanksgiving day in November, autumn is the perfect season for practicing gratitude. Why not take this season as an opportunity to instill in your kids the importance of living gratefully?
Teaching children to be grateful doesn't have to result in a lecture or a guilt trip on the less fortunate and how thankful they should be for their comparatively better-off life.
1. Lead by example by talking about it
Grateful parents have grateful children. Try to incorporate expressing gratitude into your own life and have a conversation about it with your kids. For example, "We are so lucky to have such kind neighbors!", "The weather today was amazing!" or "I'm so grateful I got to spend the day with you." Make it into a habit by sharing what good things happened today at the dinner table or have your kids write it down in a calendar or diary. Writing down gratitude is an even better practice as reading them back will make you immediately feel grateful again!
2. Have Kids Help
Asking kids to do chores often feels more agonizing for the parents than helpful. While it is tempting to just do the tasks yourselves, chores are a great opportunity for children to learn about appreciation. The more you do for them, the more normalized that becomes and the less appreciative they will be for your efforts. The more they do for themselves, the more children learn about the difficulty and effort that goes into the task and the more appreciative they will be when they see others doing it for them. For example, if your kids washed the dishes every night, perhaps they will be more thankful for it when you do it every morning. Maybe the kids will even realize that doing dishes takes effort and that they can reduce the effort by reducing the number of dishes they use at each meal.
3. Insist on Thanking Others
Lead by example and insist that your children always thank others. If someone holds open the door for you, thank them. If someone sends you a gift, write a thank you note or email or even give them a call. Insist that your children do the same. If you create a culture of gratitude in your home, your kids will take that culture with them outside of the home.
The most important component in teaching your children to be grateful is YOU. Children learn by imitating adults, especially their parents. If you habitually practice gratitude with yourself and others, your children will too.
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