Thanksgiving is a time when we often take stock of our blessings. Many parents instill gratitude in their children by asking each declare what he or she’s thankful for before chowing down. I love this practice! But as an educator and tutor, I’m sometimes disappointed that these expressions of gratitude seem limited to holidays.
Countless studies demonstrate that those who regularly articulate what they’re grateful for become happier and more able to handle life’s occasional setbacks. So, there’s more than just "doing the right thing" to point us toward teaching the kids in our lives to express gratitude.
After you wake up from the turkey coma tomorrow, try these five simple gratitude practices with your children. And, remember that modeling (i.e., doing) these actions yourself is the best way to teach:
SAY THANK YOU OFTEN and EVERYWHERE.
Whether it’s a waitress who brings your food or a tutor who’s helped you to get an A, saying thank you can never be overdone. Consider encouraging your kids to say “thank you” to one another after one apologizes to the other for hitting or stealing a toy. You can never start this practice too early.
WRITE A THANK YOU TEXT or EMAIL.
When you receive the gift from Nanna or the SAT scores showing you went up 150 points, shoot Nanna or the tutor a text to say how much you appreciate their generosity and help. When a teacher writes you a letter of recommendation, follow up with a thank you email (though #3 is even better!).
3. SEND A THANK YOU NOTE.
The ubiquity of text and email makes receiving a handwritten card extra special. I recently thanked a colleague with a handwritten card for hosting a lunch-and-learn. Her response was a huge smile and “You are one classy woman!” I’m convinced that thank-you notes sent through the mail after interviews have helped me get tutoring and yoga teaching jobs because they send the message that the sender is not only thoughtful, but also willing to go the extra mile for the client.
As a former teacher who wrote scores of college recommendation letters for high school seniors through the years, unfortunately, I can count on one hand the number of handwritten notes that I received from students. You better believe that I remember those I did receive! Remind your teens that they may need to call on their high school teachers again in the future. So, it’s always a great idea to leave a lasting, positive impact on someone who’s done something nice for you. They’ll be more inclined to do so again in the future! (By the way, the same goes for a tutor who might write recommendations for a job, internship, or to support a family’s request for accommodations for a struggling student.)
4. KEEP A GRATITUDE JOURNAL.
Positive psychologist Tal Ben-Sachar and others have long touted the benefits of recording a list of around five things that you’re grateful for before bed each night. I will admit that while my own track record for doing so is spotty (yes, even tutors sometimes issue “Do as I say, don’t do as I do” advice!), I love this practice and promise to try and stay awake long enough to get better!
5. CHECK OUT MY BLOG POST on GRATITUDE and LUCK and VIDEO on CULTIVATING GRATITUDE
for some other ideas, and feel free to leave me yours by emailing me or leaving a comment.
From my home to yours, here’s wishing you a Thanksgiving filled with great food, loving family and friends, and an abundance of gratitude!