Teaching Your Toddler Gratitude

By Compiled by the First 5 Placer Team November 20, 2019
It is a natural part of your toddler’s development to be self-focused and egocentric. In fact, it is healthy.  When your child views the world exclusively from her own perspective, it helps her cope with her anxieties. But, it is still important to start developing an understanding of gratitude in your toddler. Not only will learning gratitude help your child develop her capacity for empathy, it also helps prevent an attitude of entitlement.

Why else is it important to start teaching gratitude at a young age? Happiness. According to Robert A. Emmons, a leading researcher in the field of psychology of gratitude, a professor at UC-Davis and author of four books on the subject, grateful people have higher levels of happiness and lower levels of depression and stress. His research also shows that children who practice grateful thinking have more positive attitudes toward school and their families (Froh, Sefick, & Emmons, 2008).

There are many ways to help nurture an attitude of gratitude in your little ones, even as early as 15- to 18-months-old. In honor of Thanksgiving, start cultivating a culture of appreciation in your family. Instilling gratitude doesn’t happen overnight, it takes time and regular practice. Extend the spirit of thankfulness beyond this week by committing to teach gratitude to your children all year round. Here are First 5 Placer’s top five tips to get you started. Talk the talk: Be a good role model by talking with him about the things you are grateful for. This could be as simple as “I am so thankful for the sunshine today!” Try making it part of your daily dinner conversation, or part of the night time routine.
Raise a helper: Give her a simple household chore such as feeding a pet or sorting laundry. This helps toddlers understand the effort it takes to take care of household responsibilities.
Write thank-you notes: Even if you have him dictate the note, insist your little one always responds to gifts with words of thanks. For older toddlers, turn it into a fun activity by making a hand-made card or art project.
Be givers: Show her what it means to help people in need. Encourage her to pick out old toys to donate to a goodwill project, or help cook a meal for a sick neighbor.
Say no. Don’t give in to his every request or whim. By saying no at times you help your toddler be more appreciative when you do say yes!

Reference: Teaching Children to Be Grateful

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