Expert Parent Advice

Top 5 Ways to Foster an Attitude of Gratitude

It’s that time of the year when we tend to focus on gratitude.  We count our blessings, but we wonder if our kids are truly grateful for all they have.  

I’m Amy McCready, founder of Positive Parenting Solutions, and I’m proud to partner with Kids ‘R’ Kids for the Expert Parenting Advice series.

Today, we’re talking about five simple strategies to foster an attitude of gratitude – not just during the holidays but also throughout the year. 

Research from the University of California at Davis showed that people who are grateful report higher levels of happiness and optimism along with lower levels of depression and stress.   That’s good for us and for our kids.

And, of course, we all want kids who are grateful, but they aren’t born thankful and gracious – it has to be taught.  

Fortunately, the following five strategies will foster an attitude of gratitude in your house:

1.  Encourage generosity with a “Get One-Give One” policy.  When you get a new toy, you find one that you can give to someone less fortunate.  Same thing with clothes – get a new pair of jeans or shoes, you find a pair to  give to someone else.  Be sure to personalize it for your child.  Ask the questions “Who do you think will play with that toy?  What do you think her life is like?  How do you think she’ll feel when she gets the new toy or new pair  of jeans?”   Connecting the donation to a real person makes it come alive for your child, fostering a feeling of gratitude for what they have, and it reinforces the good feeling that comes from giving to others.

2.  Insist on thank you notes.  With the holidays around the corner, it’s a great time to reintroduce the practice of handwritten thank you notes.  Younger kids can draw a “thank you picture,” and older kids can write personalized notes by hand.  We always used the one sentence per grade rule: a first grader can write a one-sentence note; a 5th grader writes five sentences.  

3.  Serve others.  There’s nothing like serving those less fortunate to help you realize how much you have to be grateful for.  Younger kids can help you prepare a meal for a sick neighbor.  School-age kids can begin serving in the community.  If you’re not sure what to do, call any church or faith-based organization in the city, and ask them about their community service projects that your family can get involved in.  

4.  Make gratitude a daily ritual. Take time on a daily basis - at dinner or at bedtime - to say three things you are thankful for.  Remember, research proves that people who are grateful are happiest.  Maximize your family’s happiness by saying OUT LOUD those things for which you are most thankful.

5.  Say "No."   Kids who have everything are rarely grateful.  Take comfort in knowing that by saying “No” to your kids, you are doing them a favor and fostering an attitude of gratitude and appreciation.  

For more tips on how to foster an attitude of gratitude, check out the interactive that goes along with this video at Expert Parenting Advice.

Happy Holidays to you and your family.  I’m Amy McCready for Kids ‘R’ Kids and I’ll see you next time.