“We often take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude.” – Cynthia Ozick
Gracias, tak, merci, shukran and efharisto, are just a few examples of how the international community say the words: “thank you.” These simple words carry a strong message of gratitude and kindness. So why is it that many people forget to use them?
According to scientific research, when a person is grateful, it can enhance their mental and emotional well-being. The American Psychological Association (APA) uncovered that gratitude is associated with better moods, less fatigue, better sleep patterns and lower levels of inflammatory conditions related to cardiac health. So being thankful is actually good for you!
From time to time children and adults genuinely forget to say thank you (myself included!) and that’s okay. However, I’ve seen many children expecting a lot without understanding the importance of gratitude. In school, I often hear comments from the kids like: “I need a rubber!” or “I need some help!” which brings me to often say: “where are your manners?” At home, some youngsters are given expensive gifts and treats from well meaning family members at the blink of an eye; whereas many families around the world are too poor to buy a single toy for their children.
“Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer.” Maya Angelou
I like to use and model an attitude of gratitude, especially in front of the children I teach. If somebody helps me out or if something amazing has happened that day, I say thank you. If I see a child being kind to another child, my team and I also bring this to their attention by thanking them. To me, it’s important for kids to develop the quality of thankfulness from a very early age, and not take things for granted. This term, my class have been learning about Ancient Greece, and will be doing a full blown dramatisation of the myth ‘King Midas and his Golden Touch’ for our class assembly. I’m excited to see how the children will creatively act out how the King learnt to be thankful and recognised that his loved ones and acts of kindness are more precious than gold.
“Piglet noticed that even though he had a very small heart, it could hold a rather large amount of gratitude.” AA Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh
Reflecting on this, it makes me think of the countries unable to build schools to provide an education for local children or where students have to walk for hours to attend their nearest school. Developing a sense of empathy and compassion, can teach children in the UK and beyond to take less things for granted. Educating young people about others who are less fortunate is a powerful way to show them how good deeds can help others. By learning to appreciate their own unique traits and everyone else’s, we can help kids develop an attitude of gratitude.
To help boost self-esteem, in my class we recently created ‘What Went Well’ books for my students. Once a week, the children in my class consciously write, draw and recognise things they are pleased with doing at school/home. This is a wonderful way of developing a positive mind-set, uplifting and reinforcing attitudes towards their achievements, and helping children think about things they can be thankful for. I read lovely comments from students like: “I’m SO happy I got a red belt in karate last week” and “I am pleased I have friends to play with.” The ‘What Went Well’ books are reflective and incredibly beneficial for my class. The boy who wrote the martial arts comment, became aware of the amount of time and effort he had dedicated to his karate training, enabling him to achieve a well-deserved red belt which he was proud of and grateful for.
We also created a gratitude noticeboard in my classroom where once a week, the kids and teaching team draw the things they are thankful for on post-it notes. We then stick the post-its on the board to visually recognise the things we’re happy and thankful to have in our lives. Its also a reminder for us not to take the little things for granted.
Thank you for reading this blog. I hope it inspires you to adopt an attitude of gratitude and to help others do the same.
Miss H ♥