During the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving Day, each of us is more focused on showing gratitude. John Milton, author and poet, wrote, “Gratitude bestows reverence ... changing forever how we experience life and the world.”
Giacomo Bono, Ph.D, and Jeffrey Froh, Psy.D, co-authors of “Making Grateful Kids: The Science of Building Character,” believe building a foundation of gratitude leads to a more caring adult with the ability to enter the world ready to flourish.
In their book, the two address the benefits of offering children opportunities for developing gratitude at a young age and how it leads to greater overall happiness, supportive relationships, a sense of belonging and hope for the future. They describe gratitude as appreciation for when someone does something kind or helpful for them or recognition of the good things and people they have in their lives.
Positive Parenting Solutions founder and author Amy McCready gives us eight tips to more grateful kids in her article of the same title. The Thanksgiving holidays may offer the perfect time to shift children’s attitudes toward gratitude and encourage more thankfulness in the youngest members of our families.
Here are some of McCready’s suggestions:
■ Implement family contributions — Routine tasks, such as unloading the dishwasher, folding laundry or feeding a pet, help children understand the importance of chores around the house and how often they need to take place. Naming these jobs as contributions reminds them that they are helping everyone when they pitch in to do their part.
■ Schedule acts of kindness — Have a family meeting and allow your child to have input on service activities to participate in as a family. They learn to appreciate their family working together and to be grateful for the things they have.
■ Make do with less — Once a month choose something your family can do without. Skip pizza delivery for a few weeks or turn off the television.
■ Look for silver linings — Our kids are going to have endless ups and downs along their life journey. Children need to learn to weather the downs with optimism; otherwise, they’re going to struggle much more than necessary.
■ Make gratitude a ritual — At dinner, everyone can share three things they are grateful for that day. Any positive is a positive.
■ Give encouragement for effort — Relaying love and support with praise lasts only for a short period of time. Praise doesn’t encourage more important abilities, like hard work, perseverance or appreciation for what it really takes to do well in school or in sports like encouragement will.
■ Remove rewards — Rewards, like praise, are short-term hits of happiness but don’t offer long-term motivation. Making tasks fun, learning experiences will help to make children a little more aware of what it takes to complete the job.
■ Model gratitude — Step up and be more generous with your own thankfulness. Don’t just give thanks — be specific about how that person made a difference for you. Kids watch and listen.
The key to teaching gratitude goes beyond this season of thankfulness. Children must see adults around them showing gratitude in simple day-to-day exchanges of commitment, shared experiences and an understanding that we are connected to each other far beyond a thank you, or only being thankful one day a year.
At St. Cyprian’s Epsicopal School we are committed to sharing our gratitude for our students, families and community, not only during this season of Thanksgiving, but throughout the year.