Teaching Children to be Thankful Produces Thankful Adults



By Katie Rahn, Executive Director

We all know that being thankful and having children who are thankful is important, but do we know why? At SouthSide, we know that grateful children can lead to adults who demonstrate less materialism and more overall happiness later in life.

Research shows that expressing gratitude can not only lead to positive social-emotional outcomes for children, but it can also lead to higher academic achievement and motivation [1].  Expressing thanks at an early age helps children build and sustain relationships with peers and adults in their lives. It also helps children develop empathy for others, which is a particularly hard skill for toddlers and preschoolers.

So how does SouthSide Early Childhood Center encourage this important skill in our youngest children, and are they even developmentally ready to understand the concept? We know that young children are egocentric by nature and it is quite difficult for them to think about other people or their feelings. Some research suggests that children are not able to understand gratitude until early elementary school; however, there are plenty of ways that parents can start instilling this concept in early childhood. Modeling gratitude is one of the most powerful tools for parents. From small gestures to larger gifts, moms and dads should always remember to say thank you. Parents can also model generosity to others and provide opportunities for their children to be givers.

Perhaps most importantly, parents should always remember to say no sometimes. Children need to learn that they do not always get everything that they want when they want it. In fact, children who are not taught ‘no’, tend to demonstrate the least amount of gratitude.  So say thank you, and say it often. Your children will notice and benefit from your thankfulness.

[1] Froh, J., Miller, D. and Synder, S. (2007).Gratitude in children and adolescents: Development, assessment, and school-based intervention. School Psychology Forum.