What TO do to encourage gratitude
- Instead of acting belligerent when you do something for your child and he doesn’t respond, simply say, “Thank you, Mummy” in a light-hearted way that encourages his thank you response.
- In the same vein, when your child demands something, wait for the please or give a reminder of please so that she says please.
- Always say please and thank you to your children, spouse and others.
- As soon as your child is old enough to understand that gifts come from others who take time and thought to get them, ask your child to dictate a letter to you. “What would you like to say to grandma about the train set? Do you like playing with it? What’s your favorite part? Let’s tell her about it.”
- When your kids are old enough to write, be sure and spend time with them while they write thank you notes and help with the thinking process if needed. Make it fun so it doesn’t become a chore.
- Anytime your child does anything helpful, point it out. “I really appreciate it when you bring your plate to the sink. It helps me with my job.” “I bet your sister felt really good when you gave her a hug when she was feeling bad.” “Thank you for putting your puzzles away.”
- Let your children hear you talking about how grateful or appreciative you are toward someone else. Let them see you writing a note to someone or hear you expressing it to the person.
- At the dinner table, take turns offering something you feel grateful for and also something you wish hadn’t happened that day.
- When you find yourself frustrated by your child’s lack of appreciation, stop and ask yourself, What am I missing? What do I wish for that I am not getting? What do I want my child to give me? Is that realistic, appropriate?Am I expecting her to respond at her age the way I would at my age?
- Try to get in your child’s head and understand what he is thinking or feeling when you sense lack of caring. Disappointment or anger in the moment will trump any consideration for what another went through.
Remember that a child’s development for many years is extremely egocentric. That’s why they need parents for about eighteen years. Do not expect them to rise above a big, negative feeling to think of your feelings first.
If you remember being very appreciative when you were your child’s age, ask yourself what would have happened if you weren’t. Was your appreciation genuine or required? Some children have an easier time being ingenuine than others.
Like respect, gratitude is a feeling that cannot be taught, only experienced. You can remind your children that they might be feeling gratitude, you can show them ways to express their gratitude, but you can’t make them feel it.
When we get older, we learn how to lie a little by expressing gratitude for something we may not even like because we want someone to like us, feel acknowledged by us, or experience our gesture. But childhood is no time to start teaching that.
Bonnie Harris is the director of Connective Parenting. She has been a parenting specialist for 30 years, is an international speaker, teacher and coach/counselor. Bonnie has written two books: “When Your Kids Push Your Buttons and What You Can Do About It” and “Confident Parents, Remarkable Kids: 8 Principles for Raising Kids You’ll Love to Live With“. Visit her website: www.bonnieharris.com and follow Connective Parenting on Facebook.