Noticing Nice Things-Teaching Children Gratitude
Learning to say thank you is the beginning of teaching children to have gratitude. When they are very little, understanding the concept of appreciation is still being learned. We need to help them by showing them when there is a situation that merits a “thank you” or another expression of gratitude. One way to help them is by playing the “nice things game.” Have them each tell something nice that happened to them today while the family is at dinner or when you put them down for the night. Make sure to include yourself in the game. It is good for them to hear what you thought was nice, especially if it was something they did for you. It is useful to remind them to think of things they are grateful for right before they pray.
Gratitude by Smaller Children
For smaller children, it helps to point out things that happen during each day that the family is grateful for: things like when Daddy comes home, when grandparents visit, warm beds, clothes, or friends. Help them to become aware of all their blessings by reminding them as these events happen.
Older children are more able to feel appreciation and gratitude. It is still important to point out to them when you see a situation that merits their thanks. For example, “Wasn’t that nice of Tom’s mom to take you to the park?” When you give them praise, as you see them being helpful, it will reinforce their expressions of gratitude. “Thank you for opening the door for Tom’s mom when the three of you came back into the house!” As they receive appreciation they will usually be more aware of things they need to appreciate.
Thinking of activities that help children to notice nice things is a good way of reinforcing your teaching. Doing art projects or taking pictures are two ways for them to show their appreciation for things around them. Have younger children draw pictures of things they are thankful for and use them as placemats during November. Older children could use a camera to capture images of things they are most grateful for and share them with the family.
See the Nice Things
All ages of children will benefit from your guiding them to see the “nice things” around them and thus be more grateful for them. By making them aware of people and things they should be thankful for, you will be doing more than just teaching them to say thank you. You will be helping them to develop the ability to express their thanks in many concrete ways and that is a “nice thing.”
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