The most important thing parents can do in today’s world is raise grateful children. We as parents are granted the task of molding our children into the adults they will become. We shape many aspects of the way our kids will think, feel, and behave toward others and about different situations in their environment.
Two aspects that are crucial traits parents must instill in their children are gratitude and kindness. Ultimately, raising children that radiate these traits leads to them being happier, healthier, and more fulfilled adults!
The ultimate question: How do we raise grateful children?
Well, the answer to this question has changed throughout time. In today’s society, it is harder than ever to do so due to the numerous demands that children have on them. Plus, the various forms of negativity throughout their day. Media outlets everywhere display a materialistic and selfish mindset that can easily persuade young ones to think in that direction.
In the end however, parents can be the most influential persuaders!
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Lead by example
Kids are always watching. ALWAYS. In psychology one of the largest studied theories is how observation leads to mimicked behavior (thank you B.F. Skinner). Skinner concluded that learning occurs by watching others in his experiments on observational conditioning. Don’t believe it?
In Skinner’s famous Bobo Doll Experiment, children were individually placed into a room containing toys to play with however they chose. Before playing, each of these children were also shown a male or female model.
Some of these models played appropriately with the toys while others began behaving aggressively towards the toy known as a ‘Bobo doll’. These models attacked the doll in various ways whether it be with a hammer or by making aggressive noises like “Pow”!
The children exposed to the aggressive and violent behavior, acted in similar ways when allowed to play in the room. On the other hand, the children exposed to models playing with toys appropriately, behaved in a way that matched those models.
Therefore, model kind behavior and watch kindness blossom in your child.
Be kind to your child
This modeled behavior needs to start with directing this kind of behavior toward them. From the beginning, children can be difficult little creatures. We preach and preach about being mindful and patient parents but when it comes down to it, sometimes you just want to scream! And while this is unavoidable sometimes, try to not make a habit of it. Take a deep breath before talking to your children. If you do raise your voice than apologize. They absorb how you treat them and use this in learning how to treat others down the road.
What better way to show your children how to be grateful than by showing them how great they truly have it. Help them realize what they should be grateful for and why. While we as parents want to give our children everything their heart desires, it is also important to illustrate that these things should not be taken for granted!
Along those same lines, how about taking old toys and such that you have bought for them throughout the years and donating some of it? I know it can often times be hard to let things go. BUT, teach your child that the things that they no longer use could be used and loved deeply by another little boy or girl just like them.
Put less emphasis on material items
After donating items, it may be beneficial to teach your children that life is filled with so much joy and this joy isn’t usually made up of things. Talk to them about how whenever they feel happy it most likely is when they play outside with their friends or spend quality time with mom and dad. Teach them that the best parts of life are when you are with people you love rather than things that you like.
Recognize their acts of kindness
From the very beginning recognize the acts of kindness that your children display. Whether it is something as simple as helping dad with the dishes or sharing a toy with their sister, granting your children with positivity reinforces these kind behaviors. In the end, kids just want to please their parents. Let your children know that you are proud of what they are doing!
Take a moment every night before bed and talk about the things that you were most grateful for that day. Always let them know that they are the biggest thing you are grateful for and be receptive to what they are most grateful for! In doing this, everyone ends their day on a positive note and practicing looking at their day in a positive perspective. If you have older kids, this may look like starting a gratitude journal or reading gratitude books!
Teach them empathy
Talking about perspective, it is important to teach our children about seeing from other’s perspectives and in doing so, also caring for that person. Teaching empathy benefits your child in many ways ranging from forming acceptance of others, the creation of stronger relationships, and an overall deeper emotional intelligence. Therefore, children that practice empathy regularly are more likely to be in tune with their own mental health and live happier lives.
As we grow, we learn from different people and situations how to view and interact with the world around us. We are not born with a positive sense of the world. It is our job as parents to teach and guide our children on what kindness, compassion, love, and gratefulness look like. In the end, these traits not only benefit those around them but will also aid in making them the best version of themselves they can be.
So parents, make sure to raise grateful children!