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Gratitude and Toddlers

With Thanksgiving around the corner, I’ve been thinking more and more about gratitude. Not just saying thanks, but really meaning it.

Recent studies show that gratitude (the honest-to-goodness kind, not the fake smile and handshake variety) can make you happier and healthier. Think about all that you’re grateful for at this moment. Get beyond the hot Starbucks latte and the free 5 minutes you had to savor it. Those moments are remarkable and sanity-saving (even if you were locked in the bathroom). But what are you truly GRATEFUL for?

Have a couple ideas? Good.

Bet you smiled.

As a mom who wants my toddler to be healthy and happy, I want to find ways to teach her about gratitude. But in the me-me-me phase of toddlerhood, it’s a daunting task.

Parents.com took on this very topic yesterday:

Gratitude is one of the trickiest concepts to teach toddlers and preschoolers — who are by nature self-centered — but one of the most important. Sure, thankful children are more polite and pleasant to be around, but there’s more to it than that. By learning gratitude, they become sensitive to the feelings of others, developing empathy and other life skills along the way, says Barbara Lewis, author of What Do You Stand For? For Kids (Free Spirit Publishing, 2005).

Later in the article, they lay this one on you: “On the flip side, kids who aren’t taught to be grateful end up feeling entitled and perpetually disappointed.”


But there’s hope! They give some great tips in the article. One of which is find a goodwill project. No, that doesn’t mean dragging your toddler to a soup kitchen every week. But it does mean doing something kind for someone else and explaining how and why you are doing it, and how grateful the recipient will be.

When I think about it, my family does a lot for others. We drop meals by, we bake, we volunteer when we can, we grab the neighbor’s garbage cans, we pick up craft projects for friends … but I’m not explicit about WHY we’re doing these things. It’s just something we do. That’s one of my take-aways from the Parents.com article. To talk more about the process and the reasoning. To make the concept of gratitude tangible.

How are you teaching your child about gratitude?