How can I help my child be thankful?

There are so many valuable qualities we want to instill in our children, but learning to be thankful–or grateful–is one of the most important. Not only are grateful people more pleasant to be around, research has shown that they report higher levels of happiness and optimism, as well as lower levels of depression and stress. But learning to be grateful can be a difficult concept for young children to grasp. Being grateful requires a sensitivity to other people’s feelings, but the ability to take a different perspective or “put oneself in another’s shoes” is a skill that continues to develop throughout childhood. Therefore, the best way to help children learn to be grateful is to model it. Try to make a point of talking about the things that you are grateful for, thank your children when they do something nice for you, and share with your child the joy of giving. Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to talk to children about the importance of being grateful, and begin to incorporate gratitude into your everyday routine. For example, take turns naming two things you are thankful for each day at the dinner table or together before bed.

Jennie Ito, Ph.D.

Child Development Expert

Jennie Ito is a mother of two and a child development consultant who specializes in children’s play and toys. Before becoming a consultant for LeapFrog, she was an intern at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, and later worked as a content expert for the Association of Children’s Museum’s “Playing for Keeps” Play Initiative. Jennie earned her doctorate degree in developmental psychology at Queen’s University in Ontario, Canada.