Saying please and thank you is one of the first social rules we teach our children. By reinforcing gratitude, we can help our kids understand the importance of appreciation, empathy and not taking things for granted, which can improve their relationships and overall happiness now and into the future.

1. Model gratitude

To the waiter who brings your food, the helpful neighbour, the stranger who holds the door for you – say thank you. Children learn by example; their spongy, suggestible brains are continuously soaking up the behaviour, words and accidentally overheard conversations of those around them.

When you consciously express gratitude toward your family, strangers and during everyday encounters, your child is observing and will eventually learn to recycle the language themselves (often with some prompting). Pointing out generosity and thanking your little one for small acts, like putting away toys or setting the table, also reinforces the behaviour and lets them know they’re appreciated.

2. Set expectations

Shopping with your toddler can either be a grand adventure or an epic trial – there is no in-between. Setting expectations (and repeating them) before you head out can help to clarify the purpose of your trip and aptly prepare them for what could otherwise be world-shattering disappointment displayed in the middle of the shopping centre. By saying, “You can go see the toy aisle, but we are only looking today,” you let your little ones know that buying new items is a special treat and not to be expected.

3. Encourage savings

Whether it’s a trip to the movies or a toy they’ve been eyeing, encouraging kids to save their coins helps them understand the concept of savings, delayed gratification and the benefits of committing to your goal. Working with them to set a goal and stick to it also teaches them how over time, small contributions can add up to something bigger. 

4. Have fun for free

Among the many costly activities you can do with your child, some of the best sources of entertainment are free. Going for a walk in nature, baking cookies or having a book or movie marathon are just some of the ways you can teach your child that the best things often don’t come with a price tag.

5. Record their gratitude

Establishing a routine is one of the most effective ways to teach children. Before bedtime, encourage your toddler to list three things they were grateful for that day and then record them in a journal to keep beside the bed. Whether it’s thankfulness for dinner that night, something a friend said or a trip to the park, starting small can eventually lead to a strong sense of appreciation.

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