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In the spirit of the season, teach kids gratitude

A child’s heart and mind are naturally focused on “me.” It’s up to us, as parents, to help channel those thoughts and feelings outward. As Charlotte Latvala, writing for on gratitude and little ones, says, “Sure, thankful children are more polite and pleasant to be around, but there's more to it than that.” She quotes Barbara B. Lewis, author of What Do You Stand For? For Kids, who notes that by learning gratitude, kids “become sensitive to the feelings of others, developing empathy and other life skills along the way.”

But what’s it in for them? A brief squib on the wiki How to do Anything, suggests that “People who spend more time doing things that express their gratitude tend to be considerably happier than people who don't.” Research supports that finding again and again. Teach kids how to be grateful, and it will help them be both happier and kinder human beings. Here are 5 ideas for helping kids get in the habit of “thanks so much” vs. “that’s not what I wanted.”

1) Help each of your children start a gratitude list that gets updated daily or weekly. Let mom and dad get it started and combine it into a family list. Encourage (and model) gratitude for both big and little things.
2) Teach kids to write thank-you notes, not just for big presents—or even only for presents—but for thoughtful gestures and gifts of time. It reinforces that gifts of all kinds are important and truly a gift vs. an expectation or entitlement.
3) Create opportunities to give. Is little Jimmy’s room getting cluttered or toybox overflowing? Encourage him to pick out 3 things he no longer uses that another child might find wonderful and take him along to deliver it to a charitable organization. Now is the season, too, for church and food pantry collections, as well as “adopt a family” gift-giving programs. Help kids shop for others!
4) Simple habits are important. Make sure you model “please” and “thank you,” both out in public and back at home and that you hear your kids use these “magic words” too.
5) Going around the Thanksgiving table, ask each person to share something he or she is thankful for about the person seated to the left or right.

Let the Thanksgiving holiday start everyday traditions that last a lifetime!