About Claire Adams: Claire is a regular contributor to GWG. She is a personal and professional development expert, and a proud aunt of 5 precious, little gems. Being an aunt of 5 with a strong desire to have her own little darlings one day, she has been quite immersed in the whole child care story and is quite familiar with the most common challenges parents are facing daily.
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Our youngsters are in a constant state of learning, from the moment they open their curious eyes, to every second they spend in your vicinity. They pick up behavioural patterns while they create their own, and while parents rush to teach them the earliest possible skills useful for cognitive development, most forget about the first steps their souls need to make to become kind and generous individuals. And isn’t that precisely what the world needs?
Although such skills are and will be invaluable to every child, these emotional and empathetic qualities should be as prioritised as all others – they are the very basis for our children to grow up to become caring and loving people. And since gratitude is learned at home, it takes much more than teaching our kids to say “please” and “thank you” for them to understand and internalise the true feeling of gratitude.
Why gratitude matters
Kids who truly do build their earliest behaviors and thought patterns on gratitude grow up to be happier people, and all throughout their childhood, they have a more positive attitude towards school, their families and they build stronger friendships.
When they embrace this awareness that things and experiences don’t just fall into their lap, and start appreciating the effort of others, they create a mindset that is rarely, if ever self-centered, and as such, it helps them treat others with kindness.
Why gratitude matters – Photo by margitwinkler
Give in moderation
Every parent wants to shower their kids with love, affection, and material things, as much as we sometimes hate to admit that. And while this intention is noble at heart, and we want to provide them with things we weren’t able to have, this behavior can give them a false sense of entitlement.
Keep your gifts moderate, and teach them to appreciate their life’s circumstances that allowed for such generosity. That old saying “it’s the thought that counts” should be something they start to understand and feel from a very young age.
Be a grateful parent
The more often and sincerely you say “thank you”, and express the reason of your gratitude, the more likely your kids will be to not only pick up on the habit of good manners, but also embrace the very feeling behind the words.
Tell them whenever you feel grateful for something they’ve done, express your pride and joy, and elaborate on it, so that they can connect the dots and realise which values are appreciated. Set an example by treating everyone around you with respect, and they will start to internalise the model themselves.
Be a grateful parent – Photo by Antigone_gone
Volunteering as a family effort
Encourage them to join in whenever you’re planning on a charitable action or helping out in your community. By raising their awareness of the misfortune of others, and giving them the means to help change those circumstances, they will slowly develop the feeling of making a difference though taking meaningful action.
You can volunteer by making care packages together, ask them to give some of their old clothes, books and toys to the less fortunate, or you can give to charitable organizations that provide girls’ scholarships for educating young ladies that come from impoverished backgrounds.
Participation before presents
As soon as they realize that you are the provider, they will start asking for things. But when they do, you can encourage them to earn those things, at least partially, by helping around the house, taking over certain chores and responsibilities.
When they put in the effort and earn what they ask for, they will get a first-hand experience in what it means delay gratification and invest work before deserving something they want.
Participation before presents – Photo by Olichel
Count your blessings
It’s one thing to teach your kids to be grateful in ideal circumstances, but the same attitude should prevail and serve them as a healing tool during more stressful situations. They have the tendency, just like grownups do, to whine, complain and pout, but if you ask them to share a few things they are grateful for, they might become able to break the spell.
This handy skill will help them develop a more positive mindset and teach them to always look for a silver lining when hardship brings them down. They will realise that life will not always be fair, but that they can maintain that positivity through gratitude and overcome their struggles through kindness.