Do you remember reading the back of cereal boxes, playing with empty boxes, and banging on pots and pans? Whatever happened to the enjoyment of the little things? The holidays are vastly approaching and we have the opportunity to be intentional about defining what we value with young children.
In a world where excess is valued above interdependence, how do we foster gratitude in young children? A 2019 study published in the Journal of Happiness Studies found that gratitude is linked to happiness in children by age 5. This means that instilling gratitude in your kids at a young age could help them grow up to be happier people.
We are seeing an influx of behavior in young children that is indicative of our I-centered society. Things like the inability to share, on-demand expectations, and incessant begging are now the norm. Children are now being targeted by advertisers. What was once a typical Saturday spent watching cartoons, is now a marketing minefield. Advertisers are doing their jobs to build an insatiable want, in young children.
Are we doing our job to counterbalance the narrative?
Research shows that people who are grateful for things that happened to them in the past felt happier in the present and more hopeful about their future. Perhaps giving your kids a childhood they feel grateful about now will help them reflect more on reasons to be grateful as an adult. Children remember experiences, they rarely remember things. Creating experiences where children can develop an understanding of the time, effort, and impact of interaction, can provide meaning and depth.
As parents and educators, we try to provide authentic experiences that honor children and are natural and unforced. It is a delicate balance in understanding that children do not know norms and customs. We are helping them to form cognitive awareness of harmony and interdependence. We have the opportunity daily to help children:
- Recognize when others have given them something, whether it’s something tangible like a gift, or intangible like time.
- Praise prosocial behavior. “I really liked the way that you shared,” or “I really liked the way that you said thank you.”
- Connect to the feeling that they are experiencing while receiving the gift.
- Understand more clearly what they are able to do for others. For example: get new toys, donate an old one.
- Teach children the difference between a want and a need.
- Practice positivity. Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.
Parents and providers, you have the power to be the change that you want to see in the world. Cultivating gratitude is not a monumental task. It’s the little things that we do every day with our kiddos, in action. Practicing gratitude can be something as simple as putting a mason jar, a stack of Post-its, and a pen on your dinner table. Encourage your family to write one thing that they are grateful for every day. Read them aloud at the end of the month, and reflect on all the beauty that you have all experienced. Gratitude is simply pausing to notice and appreciate the basics that we often take for granted, like having a place to live, food to eat, clean water, family, and friends. Helping children perform random acts of kindness is essential. Parents and caregivers who model gratitude help to reinforce its importance. A little kindness goes a long way.
In the spirit of gratitude, BANANAS is grateful for YOU every single day! We know caring for and educating our youngest children is more than a full-time job! Of course, it is rewarding, but please know that we know you are the hardest working, most dedicated, most patient and incredible bunch. THANK YOU!
Written by Ni McCovery
Professional Development Manager