NDSU Extension Service - Mercer County

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Teach an Attitude of Gratitude

gratitude, thankfulness, parenting, attitudes

Submitted by Dena Kemmet, Extension Agent/Family and Community Wellness                                                                

What are you thankful for?

We hope it’s more than one single thing on one day of the year! In Mercer County it seems a nasty stomach flu has been making the rounds. Hearing this has most of us grateful for good health once it passes. 

Asking people to name something they are thankful for has a purpose. The more we think about gratitude, the more appreciative we can become.

Parents can teach their children gratitude. The season of giving is upon us, so we will have solid opportunities to practice our gratitude skills.

Here are some ideas on how to model gratitude.

  • Show appreciation to your children. Slow down and observe more closely. You’ll see things you appreciate about your kids, so tell them. Appreciation can be an even more powerful motivator than praise.
  • Show appreciation for others. Never underestimate the power of your words and actions. You set a great example when you model kindness, generosity and gratefulness in your own everyday interactions.
  • Use the word “grateful.” Children need to learn what this new word means. Explain that being grateful is noticing something in your life that makes you happy. “I’m grateful that it’s sunny today because it was raining yesterday.” Your enthusiasm will be contagious.
  • Share “roses and thorns.” Even young children can talk about what went well (roses) and what was hard about each day (thorns). It gives them, and you, too, a chance to vent a frustration and focus on what is good in life.
  • Emphasize presence over presents. You can make giving the gift of time and activities, such as a birthday picnic and trip to a local park, a habit, as opposed to giving “stuff.”
  • Talk openly about donations and other good deeds. You don’t have to have a lot of money to make a difference. You can let your toddler put a quarter in a musician’s hat or share a batch of cookies with a neighbor. If you have money in your budget to donate to a favorite cause, share this giving with your children: “We’re giving some of our money to help animals that don’t have homes.” Keep explanations simple and matter-of-fact. As children grow up, they eventually will see that helping and giving are part of your family’s culture.
  • Share stories of thankfulness, gratitude and generosity. Those stories can come from your children’s bookshelf or your own life.

Studies have shown that people who take the time to express gratitude on a regular basis feel more alive, sleep better, express more compassion and kindness and even have stronger immune systems. In fact, filling a journal with brief passages about the moments for which we are thankful can increase well-being and life satisfaction. Keeping a gratitude journal can shift your focus so that you are always looking for something new to be grateful for each day.

For more information and a list of recommended children’s books on being thankful, check out the Zero to Three website. www.zerotothree.org/resources/2108-nurturing-gratitude

Source: Kim Bushaw, NDSU family science specialist

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