7 Ways to Encourage Gratitude in Children

June 10, 2016

Being grateful offers many benefits for the whole world. For individuals, these benefits range from physical health to mental health. However, encouraging gratitude in children, especially when they are in their adolescence, has a special importance.

Young teenagers that know how to be grateful and show gratitude have a higher probability of being happy. They are less likely to have behavioral problems and abuse drugs or alcohol. Adolescents who show gratitude also tend to be more optimistic about the future, which is very important at the time of choosing which studies they want to pursue.

However, despite the benefits of gratitude in adolescence, being young and being grateful are not always terms that go hand in hand. Parents should encourage gratitude in their children, but this is not always easy. Below, we will see a few key pieces of advice for doing this.

Be a role model of gratitude

You want to teach your children so much. In order to teach them gratitude, lead by example. You have to be a role model and practice it yourself. This can be challenging, but it is important. Consistent with data from research studies, adolescents are often confused about family values because parents are saying one thing and doing another.

handful of hearts gratitude

In other words, telling your child they should be grateful will not be effective unless you, and your spouse, demonstrate gratitude in your own lives. To do this, you should show your child that you appreciate the good things that are happening all around you, from nice weather to delicious food. When you all spend time together as a family, resist complaining or using any little thing as an excuse to protest and criticize. Instead, spend time acknowledging things you and your children appreciate and that make you happy.

Talk about what you appreciate and what you value 

Each person appreciates different things. Therefore, it’s important to talk about these ideas as a family. Discuss them together, in a relaxed way, and allow for everyone to share experiences and to contribute to the discussion.

Don’t try to tell your children what they should be grateful for. Instead, teach them to value what they have and what they experience, even the little things that seem insignificant.

Take advantage of the difficult situations for showing appreciation 

It’s easy to show gratitude when things are going well. However, it is not easy to show gratitude when going through difficult times or unforeseen problems. In those trying moments, when you have to be the best you can be, you can help your children discover reasons to be grateful.

sand running through hands gratitude

It is important to help your children find something to be grateful for, even at the worst of times. Even when things are not turning out the way they want them to, show them that good things can happen. Even in the most dramatic, unpleasant, and perplexing situations, they can learn new and important lessons. It is important to teach them that what may make them suffer today can help them to be a better person in the future.

Build a wall of gratitude

Sometimes it is not easy to express gratitude and figure out what things can awaken a feeling of appreciation. One useful way to express and discover yourself is to create a wall of gratitude. Choose a wall in a common area of the house on which the whole family can place messages of gratitude and pictures of anything they feel grateful for.

The wall of gratitude functions as a creative activity for coming together that facilitates expression and helps you get to know yourself. It fosters thoughtful reflection and gives you the opportunity to discover so many things, about life, your family, and the kind of person you are.

Help your child find a purpose in life

Adolescents who do things they feel passionate about are much more likely to be grateful. Help your children explore different opportunities they have in their lives to discover something that they feel motivated and passionate about. Tasks that imply community service work are especially good for learning the value of what one has, and learning to be grateful.

mother and child windy gratitude

Promote intrinsic motivation in your child

External motivation can help adolescents to behave kindly when other people are watching. But if you want your child to behave altruistically and be grateful, they should focus on internal motivation.

Speak with your children about how they feel when they help other people and how gratitude can improve their mood and even their general wellbeing. These kinds of benefits can help motivate children to experience gratitude more often.

Boost independence in your child

It is important for adolescents to have a sense of independence and self-sufficiency. When they are able to make healthy decisions for themselves and feel rewarded by their own positive behavior, not only by the things their parents say to them, young people are more likely to experience a sense of gratitude.

Help your children develop these essential abilities for independence, like problem solving and assertiveness. Provide them with every possible opportunity to make decisions on their own. This will help them build a sense of pride for what they have and who they are, which in turn will nourish their gratitude and appreciation of the world around them.