Inculcating Gratitude in Children by Sunaina Narang

Teaching our kids to say ‘thank you’ is important, but truly instilling a sense of gratitude in them is another matter entirely. Gratitude goes beyond good manners – it’s a mindset and a lifestyle.A recent Wall Street Journal article about raising kids with gratitude acknowledged a growing interest in the area of gratitude in the younger generation. The piece cited studies showing that kids who count their blessings reap concrete benefits, including greater life satisfaction and a better attitude about school.

Sometimes I feel that the old traditional Indian way of raising kids in joint families – the days before ipads, video games – the so-called simpler days made for simple living and a deeper appreciation of our traditional value systems. I see the difference between my childhood and that of my four –year-old son. I was perfectly happy in the days of Doordarshan and waited for 8pm on a Wednesday evening for Chitrahaar. I played with my dolls or with the neighbours’ kids and was perfectly content.  Whereas already at this early age my son relies on technology to keep him occupied. It’s as if he is in a constant rush going from means of entertainment to the next. I’m sure it’s the same with all kids of today.

Technology has made the world shrink. While it is a good thing in many ways, it also means that children are open to a lot of external influences which are not necessarily positive. I’m sure a lot of parents grapple with this on a daily basis.

My question is how do we in the modern world instill our old traditional value systems in our kids? Values taught to us by the Gita which says that ‘It is not happiness which brings us gratitude but gratitude that brings us happiness.’ Research suggests that happiness is more related to being grateful for what we already have. Gratitude means counting your blessings, noticing simple pleasures, and acknowledging everything that you receive and being thankful to God .It means learning to live your life as if everything were a miracle, and being aware on a continuous basis of how much you’ve been given. Most importantly, gratitude increases positive vibrations, puts things in better perspective.

I realize that this is easier said than done. Where do we start? The feeling of gratitude should be taught early in a child. 1)We can start with a little prayer naming our blessings every night – whether the list includes a favorite toy, a particularly good day in school. This daily tradition can help develop a positive frame of mind.2) Remind our kids how happy we are to be their parents. This boosts them in a positive way. 3)Don’t shower kids with too much as they must learn to appreciate what they have. 4)Encourage kids to save their pocket money and pitch in if they really want something. 5)Link gratitude to a Higher Power. Introduce kids to our spiritual beliefs. 6) Teach kids to give back to the community whether it’s helping an elderly neighbor or working with under privileged kids. This will help them appreciate what they already have.7) Insist on politeness: When we teach our children to treat others with dignity and respect, they’ll be more likely to appreciate the ways in which those folks contribute to and improve their lives 8)Teachable moments: We all take the opportunity to have periodic conversations about values with our children but the key is to keep our eyes open for situations that eloquently illustrate our point. When kids can connect the concept of gratitude to a real-life situation, the lesson we’re teaching will be much more likely to stick. 9) It’s natural for kids to groan and complain about things. Encourage kids to see the silver lining in all situations.

If we can pool in and take these baby steps in sending out positive vibrations to the world they’ll come back to us ten-fold. What a beautiful place the world would be!

‘Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn’t learn a lot today, at least we learnt a little, and if we didn’t learn a little, at least we didn’t get sick, and if we got sick, at least didn’t die; so let us be thankful.’