It’s a given that most parents want to raise their children to be grateful.
We intuitively believe that being grateful will lead to a number of good habits and qualities: politeness, humility, and respect, to name a few.
But what can be easily overlooked is that an inherent sense of gratitude is not only beneficial for our experience and interaction with others…
It can also be one of the greatest gifts we can give to ourselves and our children.
It makes perfect sense…
The more grateful you feel for small, simple acts, experiences and interactions, the more satisfied you will be with life.
A sense of gratitude has been shown to have the most significant relationship to life satisfaction, which for many if not the majority of people, is what makes us happy!
Furthermore, the more satisfaction you have from simple things, the less disappointment you will feel.
And disappointment is what gets in the way of our happiness.
Thankfully and importantly, a sense of gratitude is something that can be taught and learnt.
And there’s no better time to instil it than in childhood.
Our staff psychologist Dani Kaufman says the key to instilling a sense of gratitude in your children is by teaching them to appreciate the little things in life in an age-appropriate way.
So how do we start the process?
‘Be specific’, says Dani, in a recent article on news.com.au.
‘Instead of asking “how was your day?”, try “what’s something funny that happened to you today, or something you found difficult but tried it anyway?”’
So then even if your child may have had some bad experiences during the day, they are forced to redirect their attention to something good that happened.
In turn, they are learning to restructure their value system, focusing on small joys in any given circumstance, and appreciating the process of things, not just their outcomes.
This concept is an extension of the Fixed versus Growth mindset model, which encourages an analogous approach to your life outlook, especially when it comes to parenting.
‘It’s the concept of appreciating the process in life, and noticing the little things, not just the outcome.’
By doing this, we take the pressure off the ‘end game’, and refocus our attention to all the wonderful things we may experience on the way there.
‘So focusing on something like “I tried really hard” or “what new things did you learn?”, rather than “I got a great mark in a test”.
The best way to practice this model is to lead by example, and implement a sense of gratitude into your daily routine.
The drive home from school or around the dinner table can be the perfect opportunity, but you’d be surprised at how easily and inconspicuously gratitude can work its way into your daily life.
Simply telling your child that you loved having dinner with them, or that you enjoyed hearing about their day, or that you appreciate the effort they made in helping you clean up…
It’s about the process of celebrating, says Dani, and all of these things will encourage your child (and yourself) to appreciate and cherish the little things in life.
And while celebrating the little things doesn’t mean we shouldn’t celebrate the big achievements…
‘We’re starting to realise that a successful individual isn’t necessarily someone who things come easy to.’
‘Those who grow up understanding that failure and mistakes are okay, may be more likely to learn from them, rather than be defeated by them.’
Embracing failure as part of learning is just one way we can restructure our values for the better, learning to appreciate the process, and raising more successful, resilient and happy children in the process.