When I think about gratitude and the importance of a single dad teaching his kids how to be grateful, I often reflect on a short story, titled, “The Garden Vine.” The story is about a vine, named Vida, who shares a beautiful garden with a variety of other plants.
One day, some of the other plants notice that Vida is growing longer, and further away from them. They ask Vida why she is growing in the opposite direction, and why she doesn’t want to be their friend anymore. Vida replies, “of course I do,” and begins to become sad.
One day when Vida was lamenting the fact that she was so different, her owner Melanie came to the garden to water the plants. Melanie noticed that Vida was growing fast, and was now beautifully covering the back wall of the garden. She was overjoyed and exclaimed, “I’ve been waiting so long for the back wall to look like this. I’m so happy I planted a vine!.”
When Vida heard this, she was filled with gratitude. She said, “now I know better than to complain about what I have. From now on, I’ll be sure to find the blessing in everything and be thankful.”"Now I know better than to complain about what I have. From now on, I’ll be sure to find the blessing in everything and be thankful." – Vida, The Garden Vine Click To Tweet
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I regularly share this story with my kids to remind them the importance of gratitude. It is easier for a child to learn an important lesson through a story than just telling them, “you should be more grateful.” Most kids wouldn’t even know what that means and it would serve you no purpose to tell them that.
Gratitude is a powerful tool for kids and families looking to build bonds. But it’s hard to teach unless it’s a value deeply ingrained into the everyday life of parents.Fatherly.com
How Do You Teach Your Child To Be Grateful?
There are many techniques and everyday habits that single dads can implement to teach their kids how to be grateful. The key is to ensure you are modeling the behaviors regularly as well as implementing the habits consistently.
Make Gratitude A Dinner Tradition
Every evening when I sit down with the kids for dinner, we go around the table and express gratitude. We each will say out loud three things that we are thankful for.
There are some interesting things that I have noticed since starting this tradition many years ago.
- It really works. I would never have imaged how far we would have come with this practice. My kids will often tell me they are grateful for me as a parent (unprompted). They also often express gratitude for having a house to live in and money to spend on nice things. It truly is amazing.
- My son, who was just three years old at the time we started this tradition, wanted to participate even though he had no idea what we were talking about. He didn’t understand gratitude or thankfulness, but felt compelled to say, “I am thankful for…” each night since his older sisters were saying it. Now he is a full participant and is showing gratitude in ways that I could never fathom from a five year old.
- Kids thrive on routines, as they offer a sense of security and help them develop into responsible adults. The dinner gratitude tradition is a great routine to help them feel secure and grow into a responsible teen/adult.
Show Them, Don’t Tell Them
How many times a day do you say thank you to your children? I would bet that if you aren’t making a conscious effort to be thankful around your kids, you probably aren’t saying thank you enough. It is important to model the behaviors that you want to instill in your kids. Show your appreciation and thank your children when they do nice things, when they finish their chores, or thank them for just being themselves. Just say it.
There are numerous benefits to expressing gratitude through writing, for both adults and children. Keeping a gratitude journal offers many benefits, including better sleep, fewer symptoms and less frequent instances of sickness, and of course… happiness!Keeping a gratitude journal offers many benefits, including better sleep, fewer symptoms and less frequent instances of sickness, and of course… happiness! Click To Tweet
If your kids are older, then I suggest having them write daily in a gratitude journal. Older kids usually have the creativity and enjoy the freedom to journal about their gratitude in the best way that suits them. They can pick out a fancy journal, or decorate their own. For younger kids, I like to print out a gratitude worksheet and have them complete the worksheet each night. Here is an example of a gratitude worksheet that I love.
To Sum It Up
I don’t believe teaching kids how to be grateful needs to be overly complicated. It is actually quite simple. Your kids will learn gratitude if you are modeling the behavior and doing it consistently. You can add to that by implementing a gratitude journaling practice and/or a gratitude dinner tradition. What ways are you using to teach your kids how to be thankful?
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