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Thanksgiving Tips: Teaching Gratefulness

written by: Deb Killion • edited by: Tricia Goss • updated: 11/10/2014

With Thanksgiving approaching, thoughts turn to gratefulness. Many teachers will ask students to make lists of things they are thankful for and perhaps share some with class members. Teaching kids gratefulness should be something parents and teachers incorporate year round, as well.

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    Teaching Gratitude to Children Every family is entitled to teach their children their own view of Thanksgiving, but Thanksgiving was set aside by our first ancestors to America for the sole purpose of offering Thanks to God. Thanksgiving has never been just about the turkey. This fact has been passed down for generations. Outside of this, however, there are a number of good reasons to teach kids gratitude, which will prove helpful to them in the real world.

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    Why Teach Gratefulness?

    Being grateful is an important trait in life that should be taught in the early grades. With gratefulness, we communicate appreciation for others and improve relationships with those who have helped us along the way. Being grateful means different things to different people, but here are some of the reasons we should teach the trait of being grateful to kids year round, not only at Thanksgiving.

    • Being appreciated is one of the most important values that people hold. People want to know that you appreciate them, if they do something nice for you or help you.
    • Thankfulness is a positive human trait that most people expect. It is common courtesy to show gratitude and others tend to think they are rude if they do not show it.
    • Successful business people tend to be able to show gratitude easily and often when people do things for them. This also tends to have a “boomerang” effect as they receive positive results from the simple action of showing respect and gratitude to clients, co-workers and employees.
    • It encourages social interaction. Thanking someone for a job well done, patting them on the back for help in a project, or other objective goes a long way towards encouraging positive social exchanges between people.
    • Teachers work hard to achieve goals for kids’ education and appreciate the child or parent who takes the time to let them know their efforts are appreciated.
    • Gratefulness helps them understand that giving to others is a great thing that they should emulate in their own lives. Positive role models, such as parents, teachers and others can help them understand the focus of giving and helping others, so that they incorporate this value into their lives. Your example and guidance will encourage selflessness and may inspire them to work toward loftier causes such philanthropist work later in life.
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    Psychological Implications

    In addition to these positive reasons to teach gratitude, research shows that kids who are ungrateful can become very difficult to deal with, lack social skills and struggle to cope with disappointment. Sometimes parents try to do and give so much to their kids that they come to expect it. Teaching gratitude may also means holding back on certain favors until they show appreciation for what they have.

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    How to Teach Gratitude

    To teach thankfulness to children, remind them that we all need each other. The ancient pilgrims and first settlers to America were grateful to many people for their lives, property, and establishments, including God, whom they believed saw them through their journey safely to find the new land.

    Today, many shy away from this concept due to the changing culture in the country, but Thanksgiving still remains, and will always be a time to thank a Higher Being for all of the blessings that we have. Teaching gratitude is a positive thing that should be done in every school, no matter what one’s personal beliefs or values are.