Gratitude is a Feeling Not a Behavior
To cultivate gratitude in our kids, we must ask kids the right questions, not have kids perform the right behaviors.
The most meaningful moments in my house with my kids are marked by more questions than answers. More wondering than deciding. More *not knowing* than knowing. When we are willing to explore tricky topics with our kids, we stimulate a thought process inside our children, and there’s nothing that teaches children how to reflect and be thoughtful as, well, the experience of reflecting and being thoughtful.
Gratitude relies on reflection.
To have space for feelings of gratitude, we have to slow down and notice how we feel, notice things in our environment, notice the context of the world around us. This doesn’t happen overnight for our kids – but also, it won’t happen at all if we don’t create an environment for this type of mindfulness.
How can we get better at slowing down and noticing? It starts by being willing to ask more questions than deliver truths. To wonder about things. To be curious and then pause, not conclude. Questions help us look more deeply into ourselves. Good questions (example: “What does ‘enough; mean? Such an interesting idea, right?”) stimulate gratitude more than any declaration or behavior (“Let’s take a moment to feel grateful for each other” or “Say thank you to Grandma!”).
Here are 9 sets of questions that cultivate gratitude, ordered from least complex for younger kids to more complex for older kids.
Meet your child’s thoughts with lots of responses like “Huh, tell me more” and “So interesting” and “I’m so glad you’re sharing that with me, keep going…” This helps us teach kids how to think, which is always more impactful in the long-run than teaching kids what to think.