How to Teach Your Child Appreciation
One of the struggles of parenting is feeling as if your kids are unappreciative. While some aspects of thankfulness come along with developmental milestones, there are things that we can do to help our kids better understand and express appreciation–and it’s beneficial for everyone! Those who are raised knowing how to feel and express gratitude are far more likely to grow up to be well-rounded individuals, with a greater level of self-efficacy and interpersonal skills.
Additionally, science shows that having an attitude of gratitude actually increases our body’s ability to recover from sickness and trauma, improves our physical health and mental wellbeing overall, supports self-esteem, enhances empathy, encourages compassion, improves sleep, and (as you can imagine), improves our relationships with other people! There is nothing quite like that feeling when a loved one says, “I appreciate you!”
As with anything else of value in our lives, appreciation must be practiced. As we teach our children the importance of feeling thankful for the good things and wonderful people in our lives, we must also help them practice expressing that gratitude. Below are some practical ways to help you learn how to teach your child appreciation.
How to Raise an Appreciative Child
Kids are sponges, and every parent knows that they will pick up on mannerism, words (whether good or bad!), actions, and even attitudes. They are constantly watching what their parents and other adults in their lives are doing, so we might as well use this to our advantage! Work on being grateful for what you have right now, and that will overflow on to your kids.
When interacting with them, share frequently and generously and say please and thank you so that good manners are “what we do” and gratitude is “who we are,” not just what we say we do or what we tell our kids to do. Overall, be intentional about modeling appreciation and gratitude, especially when your kids are in earshot. They will learn more about the value of a simple, “Thank you!” hearing you say it over and over again than they ever could by being told to do so. Teaching your child how to be grateful doesn’t always have to come from actual lessons. Children learn kindness and appreciation through watching the behavior of adults, so always be demonstrating good manners and gratefulness whenever the opportunity presents itself.
Also, include your kids when writing thank you cards for Christmas or birthday gifts, or making a quick phone call to thank a loved one for something they did. And, be sure to thank your kids when they do something kind or helpful! They will be more apt to thank YOU for something if they first see you thanking them.
Utilize Crafts and Activities
Just as teachers use arts, crafts, and homework to reinforce a lesson, utilizing something tangible can often help solidify the values that we want to instill in our kids. Fortunately, there are many gratitude activities that you can do with your kids to help them practice expressing their appreciation. You can try a thankfulness tree, a gratitude jar, making a collage, playing gratitude games, volunteering, donating, making gratitude journals for kids, a family gratitude book, and so much more. Also, simply going around the dinner table saying what you are thankful for or reflecting on the day by noting the small things you enjoyed can help cultivate appreciation in your home and make gratitude a habit.
Read Children’s Books
Books are a fantastic way to teach your children about appreciation and your family’s other core values. Reading to your children from a young age, as well as helping them learn to read recreationally, can also reap lifelong rewards. Fortunately, there are many great children’s books about showing gratitude and appreciation. The Giving Tree, The Blankful Heart, Giving Thanks with Max, Thanks a Million, and Llama Llama Gives Thanks are just five examples of great children’s books that emphasize thankfulness. Check out your local library or bookstore for more age-appropriate and engaging choices.
Pitfalls to Avoid
It is also important to note the common mistakes that parents make when trying to help their kids be more appreciative. Sometimes in our efforts to instill gratitude, we use approaches that look similar to gratitude but have unintended negative effects. It is important to avoid the use of threats, flattery, coercion, comparisons, indebtedness, or punishments to try to manipulate our kids into being grateful for what they have. While we all want our kids to show appreciation, thankfulness truly does have to begin in their hearts in order to become a lifelong habit and not something that is simply done out of obligation or a desire to please.
Overall, by cultivating a lifestyle of gratitude and appreciation in your home and with your children, you truly are investing in the future of our world.