Does this sound familiar? We just spent the day doing family centered activities. When it’s time to go home we think everyone is so happy about all the fun we just had. Instead, a child (or two) begins complaining about what they didn’t do and we’re left feeling surprised and maybe a little frustrated.
We all want our children to be grateful for what they have. So how do we get them there?
Set Realistic Expectations
Giving kids clear guidelines helps them to set realistic expectations. When kids know what to expect ahead of time they are better able to accept limitations. Clear expectations at the beginning of the day leads to fewer melt downs later. This leads to more gratitude by narrowing the kids’ focus. They are more likely to focus on being grateful for what they did do (or get) rather than focusing on what they missed.
For example, if the family is going to an amusement park, let the kids know in advance that they might only get to half of the attractions that day. Have each person choose one ‘must do’ and make those priorities. For family game night, have a rotating schedule where each person gets a turn to pick the game. This includes the parents!
We often frame activities in a way that each child gets to pick something (when possible) and anything else they pick is considered a bonus. They get so excited when they get these bonus opportunities! We find that allowing each child to pick something makes them feel valued and allows them to choose the thing that is most important to them that day.
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Focus on the Positive
When a child is complaining and complaining, have a discussion in which the child’s feelings are acknowledged. Once they feel heard and have calmed down they are better able to have a productive conversation.
Talking about the positives in the child’s day can help them cheer up as well as help them feel grateful. You can add to the discussion by sharing the things you have also enjoyed. Just hearing someone else share what they’re grateful for can really help kids think about the day from a positive perspective.
Children watch the adults around them all the time. They are constantly learning from us. When they see adults modeling gratitude they are also more likely to practice gratitude.
Some modeling is best done directly with children. For example, our family plays a gratitude ‘game’ where each of us takes a turn saying one thing that we are grateful for. We usually play a few rounds at a time. This is played at family meal times, when in the car, or any time we feel like our gratitude could use a boost.
Other modeling is indirect. We are often unaware that children are watching and listening to us! This means they are observing, and learning from, the adults around them. Children often internalize the conversations of the adults around them. They are more likely to think about the things that they’re grateful for when they hear the adults in their lives having those conversations too.
Nick and I have noticed that our children are starting to talk to each other about what they’re grateful for. Like us, the kids are sometimes unaware that we can hear them. It is really fun to listen to their conversations with each other. Some of the things they are grateful for are just adorable, while others are surprising!
Related Post: Be Happier This Month: A 30 Day Gratitude Challenge
A Final Thought on Raising Grateful Children
Making gratitude a family thing gives kids the tools they need to practice gratitude themselves. It also helps keep us conscious of our own gratitude. Being grateful is a continuous process. We all need a little help here and there. And once our children begin practicing gratitude, they might just be the ones helping us sometimes!
What are your tips for raising grateful children?