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Encouraging Gratitude In Our Kids

By: Linda Sorkin, LMFT, Soul Empowered Coaching
We are officially ending the Thanksgiving holiday, and my heart is full with gratitude for all I have in my life. And, although I am grateful for my home, car, laptop, and yoga studio membership, what fills me most is my gratitude for the non-material things in my life: family, my children's laughter, and the times when they are connected playing together, cooking a turkey, having leftovers by candlelight, hugging my mom, laughing with my husband, hiking on a beautiful day...I can go on and on!

The point here is how awareness and gratitude for all of the simple things in life can generate true and lasting well-being and joy. We don't need to look outside ourselves for happiness, and it doesn't have to cost money for us to feel grateful and well. Teaching our children how to find joy in the simple things is a big deal! And, it can pay off for a life time! Kids can easily become conditioned to find gratitude when they are given material objects. As humans, we have a habit of setting this up not only for ourselves but for our kids. But, we can break this cycle and teach our children the importance of how true power (meaning, purpose, self regard, etc) is a byproduct and inner resource realized by giving (not by seeking to receive) and being grateful for the daily small things.

Kid Pointz is a specially designed system that can be used to engrain and motivate gratitude and a giving mindset. Kid Pointz motivates desirable behavior and opens up dialogue about how such behavior derives inner reward that is independent of the material reward itself. Don't get me wrong, material treats are fun and enjoyable as long as the reward is internalized as more than just the material things...the self esteem, growth, power, and freedom realized in connection with the behavior is the awareness and lesson we want our kids to acquire and apply to their lives. The material is merely a means to achieving the ends.

7 tips on encouraging gratitude in your children:

  1. Become aware of what makes you feel personally grateful and how you choose to show that to your kids.
  2. Use Kid Pointz as a way to discuss the importance of rewards and, more importantly, the benefit of their behavior that got the reward, independent of the reward.
  3. Encourage your kids to use some of their reward points as a means of giving back to others by making a contribution to a charity or someone in need. Have them experiment with what it feels like to give. For example, how did they feel when they saw joy in the eyes of someone else as a result of their giving?
  4. Have family discussions around what true happiness is. Be sure to get clear on this idea yourself (i,e. if money and things are most important to you, that is what you will inevitably model for your child)...know what you want to model, and then do it.
  5. Keep a gratitude journal. Make time to review what they are grateful for. In fact, you could keep a family gratitude journal or list and review weekly.
  6. Help your kids say thank you and understand why they are expressing thanks to others. Always encourage them to follow up gifts and rewards with an acknowledgement and/or thank you note. Help them understand the importance and meaning of sending thank you notes. If they start expressing gratitude at a young age, it is more likely to become a habit and practiced into adulthood.
  7. Express gratitude to your own children on a consistent basis. Let them experience what it is like to be on the receiving end of an expression of gratefulness. Also, let them see you practicing gratitude in your own life so they can learn to incorporate it into their lives.

Remember, the Kid Pointz program can help your children find a deeper meaning in their rewards. See if you can encourage them to pick nonmaterial items for rewards or even practice giving a portion of their rewards to charity. Express the value in giving, and let them experience the results. Pay attention to what you want to reinforce with your children, have fun, and find many moments of pure joy and gratitude on a daily basis! When I think about it, Thanksgiving should actually be a daily event not just a once a year holiday! If we all consistently practiced gratitude in our lives, our world could potentially be a different place. Therefore, I challenge you to make it a habit to practice gratitude and see what happens. You might find a profound shift in the quality of your daily living...more effective and fun parenting...and, in the end, an even more joyous life!