It had been a hectic start to the holidays for the family. The car had broken down and the boy’s parents were stressed at the thought of fixing the car and still being able to afford Christmas presents for their three children. All of the stress had spilled over and the father had been particularly irritable.
Despite this, the seven year old boy came over to his father and gave him a big hug. The simple act caught the father by surprise particularly when his son said, “You don’t have to get me any presents this year, I am just glad we have each other.”
The simple act of gratitude exhibited by his son brought the father to tears. His mood immediately lifted and the whole family’s outlook changed for the holiday season. The son’s simple act of gratitude had made all the difference.
All parents would like to have children who exhibit gratitude in both good and bad times. However, gratitude is something that children have to learn. One of their primary teachers is their parents.
Children tend to mimic what they see around them. When parents show gratitude, children will model that behavior. This means doing small acts such as thanking a waiter for providing good service, opening the door for others, or helping a neighbor with a chore.
In addition, parents should point out instances of generosity when others go out of their way to help others and go beyond what is expected. This will let children know that their parents value generosity and will notice when people go the extra mile on the behalf of others.
Younger children may not understand the point of being grateful as they have difficulty understanding emotions. Parents can talk to them about how they feel when someone thanks them for something they have done and what they feel like when someone does not. This will help children to start and understand the positive emotions associated with being grateful and expressing gratitude towards others.
Once children see and understand gratitude, parents can help them to display it. One way is to encourage children to think of people who have helped them and to say thanks. This could include making cookies for their teachers or making a card for the mail carrier.
Going a step beyond simple displays of gratitude, parents can prompt their children to turn their interests into action. Activities like having a bake sale to support a local charity or participating in a fundraising drive at school are a couple of examples of giving back to the community. As an added bonus, these activities can get the whole family involved and serve as an opportunity to spend quality time together.
In order for children to develop gratitude, they need to be taught by their parents. This can be accomplished through parents’ display of gratitude or children being given opportunities to practice being grateful. If successful, grateful children tend to be happier, have a better ability to empathize with others, and have healthier relationships with their classmates. All outcomes we can be grateful for.
This article was published in the Richmond Register daily Friday on December 4, 2015