There’s no doubt that gratitude is a life lesson that we all need constant brushing up on. But I truly believe that it’s one that can be taught early on — as young as 6 months old. While “thank yous” might be meaningless auto replies at first, the more practice a child has saying those words, the more likely they are to continue using them generously and with intent as they grow to understand their meaning and power.
Here are a few ways to model gratitude for Baby, in hopes that she will pick up your good behaviors in the same way she picks up your not-so-flattering ones. (Or is that just me?!)
Play the Thank You Game
Hand Baby a toy. Then ask her to hand it back to you. When she does, say an expressive, “Well, thank you.” Continue to hand it back and forth, saying a playful thank you each time. (This usually turns into a gigglefest at our house.) As Baby is old enough to make word-like sounds, you may even notice a two syllable grunt long before she can pronounce the actual words.
Give Baby a Chance to Give
Come holiday time, have Baby hand out the gifts. Seeing the look of surprise and thanks on the recipients’ faces will give her a thrill. This can also be done easily around the house. Mommy needs her shoes? Have Baby take them to her. Brother’s lunch box is packed? Have her hand it to him. Teaching Baby that being the giver is a special role too, will help her appreciate being on the receiving end even more in time.
Be Sure You’re Saying Your Pleases and Thank Yous
Let Baby see you speaking with gratitude to the people you encounter together — family, friends, cashiers, etc. And if someone compliments Baby’s sweet smile or beautiful eyes, say thank you on her behalf. Once Baby is ready to speak for herself, remind her to look at the person and say thank you. While it may seem pushy at first, it will become second nature to Baby quickly with a bit of practice.
Openly Express Gratitude Throughout the Day
When you find yourself enjoying a moment, tell Baby. “Isn’t it great that we can be cuddled up on the couch reading this book together?” “I’m so happy to wake up in the morning to come in to your smiling face and wacky bed head!” “This beautiful day is giving me lots of energy and I really needed it.”
As the day comes to an end, and you’re getting Baby all snuggly in her PJs, list 5 things you’re grateful for that day. These things can be anything from the weather, to activities you did, to the people you love, to the fact that it’s finally bedtime. (Of course if you’re religious, this can also be done as a prayer.)
Try a few of these and I bet you’ll be surprised how quickly Baby picks up on this way of thinking. And, if you’re like me, you might also find that you feel happier when you take a gracious approach to the days as well.
How do you model gratitude for your baby?
Photo credit: morgueFile