Practicing Gratitude

'Please' may be the magic word… but 'thank you' may prove even more magical.

Recent studies show that gratitude is linked to overall happiness and well-being. The more compelling news is that gratitude can be learned. In other words, even "cup-half-empty" types can improve their outlook on life by building their gratitude muscles.

Whether your child came into the world with an optimistic outlook or not - sprout more gratitude in your home with these simple ideas.

Beyond 'Thank You'

We all want polite children who say "thank you." Practicing the language of gratitude is key, even if your child may not yet seem sincere. 

Expand your child's thank you vocabulary. Introduce words from another language ("gracias!"), sing a thank you song or invent a thank you high five. By mixing it up, you'll breathe new life into grateful phrases.

Feeling Gratitude

Gratitude is a feeling. Your child may not always recognize that feeling, but you can help him by describing it.

Paint picture with your imagination: "Wow! When you did that, it made me feel warm and fuzzy like a giant teddy bear just hugged me." Ask your child to describe how his "thank you" feels.

Noticing Gifts

Help your child recognize all sorts of gifts. Wrapped gifts like toys and treasures are often the most obvious to a child. It is natural that your child has an easier time being grateful for something he can see and play with.

Talk about other gifts we can be grateful for: good things to eat, feeling rested after a nap, park time with friends or snuggling with dad. 

Keeping It Positive

When you were little, you likely heard someone say: "Eat your vegetables! Kids are starving in [insert name of developing country]." These messages may increase guilt, but likely not gratitude.

Keep the focus on what you are grateful for in your life without negative comparisons. Gratitude naturally yields compassion and altruism for those nearby or in far-away places.

Grateful Exercises

Journaling & Scrapbooking. With your Sproutlet, keep a journal or scrapbook of things, people and events you are thankful for.

Thank You Letter. Beyond the thank you note, try a thank you letter. Select a person who positively influences your life. Write a letter and read it in person.

Three Good Things. Practice daily gratitude. When you tuck in your Sproutlet at night, reflect together on three good things that happened during the day.

View It Together

Ask your child what three good things happened to a character in the show you just watched. Build gratitude and empathy in your child with this simple discussion.