|Posted by Sue Badeau on December 1, 2014 at 6:10 AM|
Four Ways to Teach Gratitude to Children, part II
Teaching gratitude to children requires intentional effort on the part of parents. Part I of this blog offered two tips:
1. Model Thankfulness, and
2. Build Gratitude into family routines
Today, I continue with two more tips:
3. Practice delayed gratification – We all know the saying, “absence makes the heart grow fonder.” A similar principle is at play when developing gratitude. Waiting, sometimes impatiently, for something you have your heart set on increases the depth and sincerity of the gratitude felt when it is finally received.
Whether it is a letter from afar, the result of a test, of a special toy or item of clothing, the waiting time is similar to the time it takes to steep tea, when our longings are well steeped, both pleasure and gratitude are increased. This is one reason the church has built periods of waiting into liturgical calendars. A period of Advent increases the anticipation, the joy, and the gratitude for the miraculous gift of Christmas.
For children, calendars, clocks and even egg timers are great tools to help wait with hopeful anticipation. Marking off days on a calendar when waiting for a big event, or waiting for the sands to fall to the bottom of an egg timer for a small daily event both help a child learn the life-skill of delaying gratification and increase the opportunity for gratitude. The famous “Marshmallow Test” further describes the lifelong benefits of learning to delay gratification.
4. Provide Opportunities to Give – “Tis better to give than to receive” (from Acts 20:35) is another familiar saying containing a deep truth. Giving brings a deep sense of inner joy that is hard to experience in other ways. Giving without strings attached connects you with others and provides an opportunity to demonstrate unconditional love. The pleasure received when giving cheerfully creates a lasting and often cherished memory.
Taking time to imagine what the other person would like, working or saving to make or purchase a gift, wrapping it up, bringing it to the other person, and savoring the look on their face when they open it are all elements of the giving process. These same elements are embodied in giving of one’s time or in other ways not represented by material items.
When a child experiences both the process and the joy associated with giving she becomes more aware of the thought and love that goes into the gifts she receives. Thus, practicing generosity also increases gratitude. In our home, we keep “Santa hats” on hand and each person dons this hat, in turn, when they have gifts to hand out. Over the years, the children clamor at least as much, and in some cases more, for their turn to be the giver than for the gifts they will receive.
There is a lot of research on the value of developing an “attitude of gratitude” in children. I hope these four tips will encourage you to explore your own ways to stretch those gratitude muscles. More examples and ideas can be found here I would also love to hear your ideas.
“In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God” I Thessalonians 5:18
Categories: Building Bridges of Hope