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The Importance of Teaching Toddlers Gratitude

December 9th, 2019

Grandmother and Kids Sitting in a Rose Garden

Have you ever been told to “stop and smell the roses?” The phrase is a familiar call to take a moment to appreciate the little things in life. As an adult, you may think the takeaway is to slow down, but really the emphasis is to appreciate small joys.

Appreciation paves the way to gratitude. A grateful person brings others up and can persevere through life’s difficulties. Cultivating a sense of gratitude in your toddler is giving them a wonderful gift. Learning to be grateful can equip your child to form healthy relationships and cope with adversity throughout life. Grateful kids are happy kids.

Attitude of Gratitude

By the ages of four to five, your child’s ability to empathize begins to grow. Kids learn to understand that the world doesn’t revolve around them; that their parents and family members do things for them out of love, kindness, and because they care. (Barbara Lewis, author of What Do You Stand For? For Kids. Free Spirit Publishing, 2005).

Developing Gratitude: Beyond “Thank You”

Although good manners are important, think of “gratitude” as more complex than just “please” and “thank you.” For children to learn gratitude, the action of appreciation must be connected to the thoughts and feelings of gratefulness. According to a 2003 study conducted by the University of California at Davis, gratitude consists of the following four parts:

  • What we NOTICE in our lives for which we can be grateful
  • How we THINK about why we have been given those things
  • How we FEEL about the things we have been given
  • What we DO to express appreciation in turn

Practice Developing Gratitude Together

Here are a few ways to practice teaching kids gratitude in everyday life:

  • Be on your best behavior. Practice good manners.
  • Demonstrate appreciation in action. Skype Grandma. A face-to-face visit is a perfect way to show gratitude.
  • Look at the bright side. Verbalizing the silver-lining in everyday annoyances will practice gratitude for the things going right. Staying positive will cut your stress level down to size. Go the extra mile and start a gratitude journal.
  • Count your blessings. Have some fun with papercraft. Try constructing an appreciation tree.(Kid-approved Gratitude Activities) During the holidays, craft some simple paper ornaments adorned with what you and your child are grateful for this year. Save your blessings and add more each year to make a wholesome family tradition.

Teaching children to feel and express gratitude is one way to help them be happy as they grow up. So, don’t sweat the small stuff, really. Stop and smell the roses.