Cultivating Gratitude

gratitude and leavesAs the Thanksgiving holiday quickly approaches, we begin to plan out our holiday weekends. If you”re hosting Thanksgiving dinner, then you”re collecting recipes, planning your schedule of what to cook and when, you”re assigning family members their dishes to bring to dinner and creating your shopping list. If you”re a Black Friday shopper, then you”re sorting through the shopping ads advertising sales and planning out where you”ll shop and what time you”ll be there. Most of us with young children have started talking about being thankful “because that”s what Thanksgiving is all about.” However, being thankful and full of gratitude is a quality we must cultivate all the time. We have to be one step ahead of the philosophy that teaches our children to take what is theirs, leave nothing behind and expect more out of others than what you expect from yourself. It can be challenging to go against the flow but it can be done. In fact, it must be done.

Gratitude: the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness

My favorite part of the above definition is the “readiness”. Readiness is the state of being fully prepared for something. That word, readiness, underscores that you must be prepared, able and willing, to show gratitude. It”s also a multi-step definition. Not only must one be able to show appreciation for a kindness but must also be able to return that kindness. I love it. How many of us prompt our children to show gratitude? I know I do constantly. While it is good to enforce good manners, it isn”t the main goal. The main goal should be to cultivate a grateful person who sees the goodness of life through any and all circumstances and not just at Thanksgiving.

Good Manners Lead to Gratitude

Manners are something that need to be taught to children and are a precursor to developing an attitude of gratitude. Manners are putting someone else”s needs or feelings before your own. Holding open a door for someone means you are standing out in the cold a moment longer. Waiting one”s turn to speak means listening to the speaker more closely and tucking away your own opinion a few minutes longer. Writing a thank-you note takes time away from other tasks. These things may seem simple but they are all part of being a well-mannered person.

You can”t expect perfect manners from a child, just like you can”t expect perfect behavior. Reinforcing the good, gently correcting the bad and modeling good manners is the best path to successfully teaching manners. Modeling good manners is especially important as children as young as 8 months old begin to mimic the actions of those around them. I love the printable manners chart from Thirty Handmade Days. Her chart includes manners such as: “Say please & thank you.”; “Look people in the eye when speaking.”; and “Use kind words.”

Habitually using manners gently nudges our children in the direction of thoughtfulness. They will begin to notice other areas in which demonstrating good manners might apply. Helping another shopper pick up a dropped receipt. Thanking the mail carrier for dropping off a package. Smiling at another child playing at the playground. These are thoughtful actions that will improve another”s life and attitude. Once a child begins to impact others around them in this way then that child will begin to notice how he or she benefits from the positive actions of others, thus opening the door to gratefulness. A child needs to be able to recognize kindness and know how to return it.

Gratefulness by definition is warmly or deeply appreciative of kindness or benefits received. When our children become grateful for good, although simple, everyday things they can better approach and deal with the negative things that occur in their lives. They will know how to look at their problems in the most positive way which allows for more efficient problem solving. Teaching a child the concept of gratitude is a childhood long journey that will hopefully lead to a life filled with kindnesses that multiply around them.

About Meghan Zeile

Mom-in-the-know and local writer for Rochester Media. Always looking for tips with kids, family life, and fun local adventures. Contact at

Speak Your Mind