3 Reasons to Teach Gratitude All Year Long

compassionIt is the time of year when we attempt to slow down and express our gratitude as much as possible.

Classrooms focus on American history, and kindergartens and preschools craft turkeys and thankful leaves to decorate their classrooms before sitting down together for a big classroom feast. Yes, November brings acts of kindness and thoughts of gratitude as we roll into the holiday season.

But then it ends. Families are overwhelmed with going and doing as the winter holidays approach, and January makes room for new goals before stopping to share a little love in February. Do you see where I'm going with this?

Somewhere along the line, November became our unofficial month of teaching gratitude. That's a mistake. Gratitude is a learned behavior, and it requires more than a crash course and a few leaves on a tree. Don't get me wrong — I love the thankful tree. In fact, my kids love it so much that we keep our tree up all year. But it's on me to keep it going — to make sure that we appreciate what we have all of the time, because gratitude is easily lost when it isn't addressed.

Kids raised with gratitude are happier, more empathic, and better able to cope with obstacles. If that's not enough to change #30daysofgratitude to #365daysofgratitude, I don't know what is.

Read on to understand why we need to treat gratitude like a full-time job for kids.

Compassion matters:

Gratitude leads to compassion, and kids need more compassion in their lives. When we look at things like bullying, cyberbullying, and hatred, it all boils down to compassion. Kids who lack compassion for others are more likely to hurt others (physically or emotionally). Kids who have compassion for others are more likely to help others and stand up to negative behaviors.

Compassion begins at home. Every kissed boo-boo, every hug during the heat of frustration, and every moment of authentic listening plants the seeds of compassion in our children.

Stress affects gratitude:

According to the Pottery Barn catalog, the holiday season is full of smiling faces, steaming mugs of hot chocolate, and family time by the fire. That sounds nice, doesn't it?

The truth is that the holiday season can be stressful for families, especially for young kids. Frequent parties, delayed bedtimes, and singing on command in front of large audiences (not to mention the torturous anticipation of it all) can result in stress for kids. And it's hard to practice gratitude and compassion when you feel like you might melt down at any moment.

While slowing down to talk about gratitude during the holidays is a good idea and should be a top priority, it can't be the only time kids work on it.

Crash courses for kids rarely work:

Kids are constantly learning and growing, and they are bombarded with interesting information and constant input at school. They have a lot to think about.

Kids need to time to hear, process, and practice the things they learn. While reminders about gratitude before opening gifts might help in the moment, those reminders are likely to be forgotten by the next day. Gratitude is best practiced on a daily basis, with positive input, in a calm and caring environment.

Image via Flickr/Leticia Bertin