It’s difficult for a child – especially a toddler – to understand what gratitude is, and why they should feel it in the first place. With a lack of perspective as to just how massive the world is, along with just how much their parents give them, it’s up to those same parents to teach them to be grateful, and starting at a young age goes a long way.
Today on our blog, with Thanksgiving coming up, we’ll dive into why teaching your toddler to show appreciation and return kindness at a young age is so meaningful, and how to do so effectively.
The Art of Gratitude
Before we talk about what gratitude means for toddlers, let’s start by discussing what it means for all of us. While we understand the definition of gratitude – being grateful for what we have, and voicing it to those around us – many of us take it for granted. Saying thank you is one thing, but genuinely taking the time to remember the things we’re grateful for and showing that gratitude towards others can go a long way.
Recent research has shown that gratitude leads to increased moods and even well being, as well as better brain activity. It also leads to more empathetic, generous behavior. Everyone wants to be known as the friend always willing to lend a hand – it all starts with being grateful first. We’re not saying you should be grateful for personal gain, but it does have benefits.
The Time is Now
Whether your toddler is just getting their feet under them or they’re almost out of the toddler age, it’s never too early or too late to start teaching them how to be vocally and mentally grateful. There are many places you can start, and they’re all good practices.
Many parents have found that the more they give to their children, the less thankful they become. This makes a lot of logical sense – when you feel like you receive everything you want, it’s not special when it arrives. Instead, make sure treats are actually treats and are not happening all the time.
Additionally, some parents have discovered their children are less grateful for a surprise than they are for something they really wanted and received as a reward. We’re not saying you shouldn’t surprise your toddler – you definitely should, from time to time – but there’s a balance to strike. A huge portion of childhood behavior comes from the example set by their parents. Toddlers and beyond are constantly watching their parents and other authority figures, even subconsciously, to try to figure out how they should behave. If parents constantly tell their toddlers and children to be grateful but aren’t showing them how it’s difficult for the practice to stick.
If you’re finding more and more that your toddler or child just isn’t expressing or understanding gratitude, it might be a good idea to look at your actions and consider if they’re seeing your gratitude. It doesn’t mean you’re an ungrateful person – it just means learning to display that more in ways that make sense for your toddler.
Begin with the Basics
Everyone has to start somewhere. If you’re struggling to figure out how to teach gratitude to your toddler, begin by taking the time to do intentional activities. You could start by having the whole family discuss the high point(s) of their day at the dinner table. While this might not fully translate with your toddler depending on their exact age, it shows them that positive moments and situations are important and should be a priority.
The important thing is to build habits. It doesn’t have to be high points at the dinner table or anything specific; what’s important is you’re creating a habit that your child can begin to adopt for themselves. Eventually, this will become less of an activity and more just something that you and your family do – part of your identity.
Help Around the House
While it’s impossible for a child, let alone a toddler, to understand the huge scope of the world and how fortunate they are within it, there are ways even from a young age to help your children understand that good things don’t just happen on their own.
One of these ways is chores. While there’s a limited number of chores a toddler can do, there are small things you can begin to incorporate to help them understand that the home functions because of a lot of hard work from the whole family. As they grow, these chores will be second-nature, just like the habits, which helps them understand and feel grateful for what they have.
Whatever your methods, it’s important when choosing a learning center for your child that their values align with your own. For a place with a high priority on gratitude as well as brain development through real-world situations, come tour one of ABC’s & 123’s Learning Centers today!