Think about it – from infancy, kids have (hopefully) nearly all their wants and needs met by someone else. They learn pretty early to cry, whine, pout, or otherwise express their needs, and adults respond. Basically, they’re pretty accustomed to dependence. It’s not often that they’ll stop and show gratitude for their helper.
Gratitude is a learned trait. It’s not inherent in young children. That means that it’s on us, as adults, to help kids express gratitude. The best way to do this, like nearly all positive behavior, is through modeling. So take a moment to think about your own sense of gratitude. Do you reflect back the things that you are grateful for? Try using more grateful language in your everyday life, especially in front of children. Here are some examples:
Wow, that was nice of that car to let me in. I better wave so she knows that I appreciate her kind gesture.
Carlos just followed my directions quickly and quietly. I am grateful that he is being a great listener today.
Thank you for telling me that story. I know it was probably hard for you to talk about. I am grateful that you trust me with your stories and are willing to share them with me.
The more we use this type of language in front of kids, the more they’ll pick up on it. Plus, the more kids feel valued, the more likely they are to make good choices in the future, and the more we’ll have to be grateful for. That’s a good cycle to be a part of!