In a world of instant gratification and constant stimulation, raising grateful kids can be a unique challenge in the modern world.
If you’re worried about your child exhibiting entitlement or a lack of respect for the life you provide for them, you’re not alone. Teaching your kids to be thankful for what they have isn’t just for your benefit, either — expressing gratitude leads to increased resilience, lower levels of stress, better social skills, and improved overall well-being.
Let’s talk about some steps you can take to nurture grateful behavior in your child every day. It’s never too early—or too late!—to foster healthier habits. Check out some expert-approved tips to get started:
Make gratitude a habit
Find a regular time during your family’s daily routine, like after school or bedtime, to share a couple things you are thankful for, and encourage your child to do the same. Practicing gratitude exercises promotes mindfulness, and also provides an opportunity for you to strengthen your bond with your family as you share with each other.
Teach the difference between “need” vs. “want”
Explain the difference between the essentials they “need” and why that’s different from the things they “want”. Help them understand that what they need to survive (like food, water, and clothing) are “needs”, while “wants” aren’t essential to their lives. Try working with them to identify examples in their lives that they can relate to — for example, food is a “need” because our bodies need nourishment, but a new iPad is a “want” because it’s not essential, even if they would enjoy having it.
This distinction can help kids understand why they should be thankful for having their “needs” provided for, and that everyone isn’t always entitled to their “wants”.
Delayed gratification can be a challenge for people of all ages, but once your child understands that “wants” aren’t essential to their lives, you can also show them the value of long-term benefits over short-term satisfaction. For example: Instead of purchasing candy and other small treats every week with their allowance, your child could save up for a new video game that’s more expensive, but they’ll get more enjoyment out of.
Show your child that sometimes waiting for something can lead to greater appreciation.
Praise positive character
Let your kids know you’re proud of them when they reflect back the values you are teaching them. Take care to celebrate your child for displaying positive character traits like kindness, honesty, & responsibility instead of only material achievements.
There’s nothing wrong with giving your child gifts, and teaching them the value of their possessions is another way they’ll learn gratitude. But while giving your child rewards for good behavior, academic success, or doing chores can be effective in the short term, it can also lead to a sense of entitlement.
It can be a challenge for young kids especially to understand the difference between behaving well because they know it’s right, and not because they know a reward is to follow. Consider praising & encouraging them with words but not material gifts.
Lead by example
Your kids mirror your behavior in more ways than you might think. Make a point to express appreciation for the everyday things in your life you’re grateful for. You can also model saying “Thank you!” as a habit, whether that’s to your child, other members of your family, friends, or service workers.
By demonstrating grateful behavior in your own life, you’ll be helping instill this value in your child.