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For children, the concept of gratitude can be hard to grasp. But learning to be grateful can give them a powerful trait to carry into adulthood.

Why gratitude?

Beyond pleasant manners, gratitude helps your child develop empathy for those around them and become sensitive to the feelings of others. This can affect how they make decisions and how they treat people. According to The Children’s Bureau, a Seattle-based nonprofit child welfare group, having gratitude can also help with physical and psychological health, sleep and even self-esteem.

It’s never too early to help your child understand the importance of gratitude. According to, toddlers show signs of gratitude as early as 15 to 18 months, and by age 2 or 3, they are able to be grateful for specific objects.

Tips for teaching gratitude

Lead by example

From a young age, we learn from those around us. The Child Mind Institute, a nonprofit organization dedicated to mental health based in New York City, suggests the first step in teaching gratitude is to model gratitude. Be sure to thank those around you in the company of your children — like waitstaff, retail employees and police officers — and encourage your little ones to do so as well.

Help them understand others’ perspectives

Take advantage of teachable moments — situations where your child sees the less fortunate in real life or on TV. Help your child understand that everyone has different resources and that life’s gifts are just that — gifts. Beyond material things, communicate the importance of being grateful for the people in their lives.

Ask them what they are thankful for

Maybe it’s a roundtable conversation at dinner, or it’s something you chat about before bed. Make a habit of talking about what went well each day and what to be thankful for. Perhaps it’s as grand as the roof over their head or as minute as their favorite treat after dinner. Help them recognize they can be grateful for many things — big and small.

Verbalize — and get creative

Of course, showing gratitude goes beyond saying a simple “thank you,” though that’s certainly a start. Encourage your child to use their talents and interests to express their gratitude in creative ways, too. Perhaps they love to spend time baking in the kitchen with you, or they’ve recently taken an interest in art. Sharing a fresh batch of cookies or a homemade card with someone your child appreciates will be meaningful to the giver and receiver.

Learning gratitude now can make them happier later

Learning gratitude will help prepare your child for a happier life, including better relationships with others. If you have any questions regarding your child’s behavior or your own parenting style, the experts at Bard & Didriksen Pediatrics can help. For more information, contact us to schedule an appointment.