‘Tis the season for saying “Thanks!”

hands holding a heart

The holidays offer countless wonders: quality time with loved ones, the joy of family traditions, and at least a few weeks where people are particularly nice to one another. But nestled between the “Secret Santa” gift swaps and the glittering candles, the holidays give us yet another amazing thing – the opportunity to give our kids an attitude of gratitude.

Teaching our children to live a grateful life can’t be accomplished in a few short weeks, but the holiday season offers kids and parents alike countless opportunities to practice giving extra thanks to the people who deserve it – and need it – most. And this is the gift that gives back! Research repeatedly shows that gratitude-rich people score higher in happiness and optimism and have fewer instances of stress and depression.

So don’t wait to make this your New Year’s resolution – use the tips below to start your family on the trail to thankfulness today!

  • Put it down on paper. Particularly in an era when it may require a crowbar to get anyone to put down their phones, taking the time to send a thank-you note makes an extra impact on kids (and Aunt Lisa). Give the pre-school bunch free-reign with some crayons and construction paper to express their gratitude, and help older kids craft a hand-written (and personalized!) note. For tech savvy teens, encourage them to get digitally creative with a video “thank-you” through YouTube or Skype.
  • Take the thanks outside the home. Telling Grandma and Grandpa “thank you” for the new Wii video game is a great start, but it takes more for kids to truly feel grateful. Take things to the next level by helping your family give back to those who really need it. Help your elementary-aged kids pick out toys to donate – either from their own collection or using part of their allowance to buy new ones. Older kids can volunteer their time to help shovel snow for a neighbor or through local events. Check out community bulletins or any church for more ways your family can help! Not only will your kids make a real difference, but these eye-opening opportunities just might help them feel more grateful about what they have.
  • Sometimes, just say “No.” A “spoiled” child is one who gets everything she wants – and as a result, is literally spoiled to the world because she has lost the ability to appreciate its gifts. Save your kids from this Scrooge-type fate by just saying “no” to the coloring book at the store or the extra hour on the computer. By not getting everything she wants, your child will be better equipped to be grateful for what she has!

With everything the season has to offer, it truly is the most wonderful time of the year – and using these strategies will put your kids well on their way to appreciating it all more than ever!

How are you teaching your kids to be grateful? Tell us in the comments below.

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About the Author

Amy McCready
Nationally recognized parenting expert Amy McCready is the Founder of Positive Parenting Solutions and the best selling author of The “Me, Me, Me” Epidemic - A Step-by-Step Guide to Raising Capable, Grateful Kids in an Over-Entitled World and If I Have to Tell You One More Time…The Revolutionary Program That Gets Your Kids to Listen Without Nagging, Reminding or Yelling. As a “recovering yeller” and a Certified Positive Discipline Instructor, Amy is a champion of positive parenting techniques for happier families and well-behaved kids. Amy is a TODAY Show contributor and has been featured on CBS This Morning, CNN, Fox & Friends, MSNBC, Rachael Ray, Steve Harvey & others. In her most important role, she is the proud mom of two amazing young men.