At a young age, you teach your young children and teenagers good manners. You tell them all about saying “please” and “thank you” when appropriate. You try to explain why these things matter. And, for the most part, that seems to work.
But gratitude is about more than just the phrase “thank you.” It’s an entire mindset that involves being wholly and genuinely thankful for what you have.
Teenagers can often struggle with gratitude. They’re surrounded by peers to compare their lives to and can be very focused on themselves. That’s why it’s so important to instill this trait in them on a deeper level. Here are four parenting tips for raising grateful teenagers.
1. Model Gratitude for Your Teenagers
The first and most important step to teaching teenagers (and kids of any age) a value is to lead by example. If a teenager sees that you demand gratitude from them but don’t perform it yourself, they’ll see it as hypocritical. Which, of course, it is!
Studies show that grateful parents raise grateful teenagers and, again, children of all ages. Your kids will learn from your example and need to see the behavior applied to believe in it. This foundational aspect is at the core of every single one of these parenting tips and quotes for teenagers that we’ll be sharing!
Raising children can be a humbling experience for this exact reason. They’re mirrors of you at a young age and copy everything you do, even the wrong things. As such, teenagers who aren’t grateful may not have had enough examples of gratitude as kids. And then, at an older age, your children will notice inconsistencies and will call you out on them!
Modeling gratitude is a beautiful thing because of that humbling experience. You’re a parent, yes, but you’re also a human being, and you make mistakes as you learn and grow. Yes, the main goal is to teach your teenagers to be thankful, but the result is something more significant. Making an effort to model desired behavior for your teenagers is part of your personal growth and the development of your family, too. Here are some tips for modeling gratitude for your teenagers:
When was the last time you thanked your spouse for something they did? Do you ever thank your children? Do you thank service workers, like waiters, cashiers, and sales assistants? Have you expressed gratitude to mail officers, bus and taxi drivers, and strangers who perform acts of kindness for you? Make it a habit to say “thank you” to everyone who helps you, even if they’re doing it as part of a job.
· Be Specific About Your Gratitude
Be specific when you say you’re thankful for something or say “thank you” to someone. This transforms the statement from an innocuous and habitual behavior to something more meaningful. Your teenagers will hear you pick out specific things that helped you when you thank others. It adds a layer of thoughtfulness that solidifies gratitude as something more than just good manners.
· Change Your Perspective To Teach Teenagers About Gratitude
Gratitude is something that ultimately shines through. The best way to model gratitude is to be grateful genuinely! How many times a day do you think, “I have to do…” or “Ugh, I still need to…”? These thoughts are valid, but you can change your perspective on them to create more gratitude. Say “I get to…” instead, or “I’m so glad I can…”, giving yourself a paradigm shift. This view of change is vital in cultivating naturally existing gratitude. Gratitude is a unique trait because, unlike many other characteristics, you don’t build up a resistance to it over time. Instead, studies show that gratitude continues to grow consistently the more that you practice it. So keep working on building your gratitude!
2. Cultivate Intrinsic Motivation In Teenagers
Gratitude is a trait that can only indeed be cultivated genuinely. You can’t fake gratitude, and it has to be developed for the sake of gratitude itself. This is where intrinsic motivation comes in. Your teenagers need to learn to consider gratitude its reward, and they can’t do that if their motivation is external.
Research shows that intrinsic motivation is a crucial factor in wellbeing and continual positive action. Kids who value this motivation over extrinsic ones are likely to continue exhibiting positive traits without external rewards. Here’s how to raise them this way!
· Provide Only Genuine Encouragement
Words of support and praise are great, but only when they’re genuine and proportional. You want to provide gentle encouragement and state your pride for your teenager’s growing gratitude. You don’t want to inflate their heads with feelings of grandeur over a simple “thank you”! Providing huge praise for almost nothing will have adverse effects, teaching teenagers that the bare minimum is rewarded. That’s not even counting the fact that superficial praise is often condescending to teenagers and could be counterproductive!
· Stop Using Rewards
Rewards, especially of the material kind, are vast sources of extrinsic motivation. Teenagers who know they’ll get a reward for showcasing gratitude will be performing thankful behavior for the wrong reasons. Plus, rewards also gamify gifts and presents, making them feel conditional. If you want your teenagers to be grateful for what you give them, you should give them genuinely and with no strings attached.
· Focus On Effort Over Outcome
Your teenagers will face failure a lot of times in their lives. If they haven’t been raised with a lot of gratitude, it will take some time to change their perspective. If you only reward successful outcomes, those outcomes may never arrive. Your teen needs to feel like you’re proud of them for trying and making progress. When you encourage, focus on what they’ve worked on over what they’ve accomplished. This way, their steps towards gratitude will feel worth it, and they’ll learn to associate personal growth with positivity!
Many teenagers don’t get the chance to showcase their feelings of gratitude or cultivate thankfulness. They also might get much of an opportunity to be thanked for anything in their lives. That’s why you need to open up these opportunities for them!
Of course, teenagers might complain about these opportunities at first, primarily if they’re not used to doing them at all. But that’s just part and parcel of raising your kids in general! You’ll have to accept that gratitude for teens isn’t learned without a few eye-rolls here and there. Here are some ways for teenagers to contribute to their family and the world around them for better gratitude!
· Implement Familial Contributions
Chores are a drag. Everyone knows that! But they’re also necessary, and teenagers should have some that they do regularly. Instead of presenting these tasks as chores, phrase them as contributions. Every person in the family must make their contributions, be thankful for the assistance of others, and be thanked for their contributions. This instills habitual responsibility and gratitude all in one! If your teens have a busy schedule, try to develop a regular chore system that works for everyone. Remember to thank them every time they do their contributions well, pointing out specific things you appreciated.
· Volunteer Regularly
Make volunteering something that your family does together as a unit! You can participate in charity events, volunteer at shelters and kitchens, or even help neighbors when they need assistance. Volunteering helps put the world into perspective and teaches people of all ages many valuable things about gratitude. As your teenagers become more interested in volunteering, they can suggest places they’d like to help at. Consider their suggestions as useful as yours and do some of the acts of service that they’d like, too. Remember, it’s a family activity, so everyone gets a say and takes turns!
· Encourage Random Acts Of Kindness
When you raise grateful teenagers, they’ll become more aware of the world around them and may want to make a difference in it. Please encourage them to do so by offering support for their ideas and providing opinions when asked. You can even embark on a family project for a cause your teenagers are passionate about. For example, you could cook meals for a family in need or write thank you notes to first responders. If you teens express interest in performing random acts of kindness, your efforts in raising them to be grateful are paying off. As such, it’s essential to make sure their new perspectives are backed by the family!
4. Keep Lessons For Teenagers Clear, But Not Preachy
If there’s one thing, teenagers can’t stand, it’s being lectured to! Most of them want to learn, but they can’t stand it when it turns into a sermon. And, to be honest, they don’t need a speech to get the picture! Instilling lifelong lessons is about consistency in small moments as opposed to one single day-long preaching session.
When raising grateful teenagers, lessons related to gratitude should be taught in a clear, concise way. It would be best if you remembered that your kids are at an age where they’re more than capable of grasping your point quickly. On top of that, lessons taught through action instead of words can be more productive as they allow your teenagers to live through them. Here are some ways to provide these clear lessons:
· Go Without Something For A Short Time
Is there some convenience or item that the family uses but could go without for a while? Try taking them out of the picture for a week or two! Removing certain things that the family is used to can put things into perspective. Remember that you also need to go without that thing, not just your teenagers! This means you can’t only remove things that only your teenagers will miss. It has to affect you similarly. This shared experience gives you the chance to work with them, as a family, to determine how to live without that thing.
· Talk To Teenagers About The Things You’re Grateful For
Regularly stopping to express appreciation for life is a great way to model gratitude. Sure, teenagers can have a surly response to your extra dose of positivity at first. But in time, they’ll start to automatically see and note the things that you’d usually point out in these expressions. This is especially true when you’re looking for silver linings in various challenging situations. Talk about what you’re glad about, even if it’s as simple as the presence of your family.
· Implement A Gratitude Routine
Spend some time every day at the dinner table expressing what you feel grateful for. If you’re religious, you can implement these things as part of a prayer. If you’re not, you can go around the table talking about what you’re thankful for. Teenagers are probably going to sulk about this for a bit, but keep doing it! Make sure the adults in the family are on board to do their part to keep the routine going. The whole family needs to help make it work!
Gratitude is a lifelong skill that will have enormous benefits for your teenagers. Teenagers who learn to be grateful are ones that research says will lead happier, healthier lives. So do your best to cultivate thankfulness in your children as they grow up. You can do this by modeling gratitude, building intrinsic motivation, providing opportunities for contribution, and teaching clear, concise lessons!