5 Tips for Raising Grateful (and Financially Responsible) Kids
Gratitude is one of those things like diet and exercise—we know it’s good for us, we know it should be a daily habit, and yet so often we just shove it to the back burner as we plow through our busy lives and schedules.
But for anyone interested in growing wealth, saving for the future, and improving their family’s financial wellbeing, gratitude is an essential part of a healthy money mindset and one we can start teaching our children from a very young age.
The Science of Gratitude and Success
According to a recent study published in the journal Psychological Science, the cultivation of gratitude can have a direct result on our spending and saving behaviors. How? Feelings of gratitude seem to combat any tendency toward immediate gratification, the “I want it/ have to have it” urge we get when we click on Amazon or hit our favorite boutique when we’re craving something new.
According to the study’s authors, gratitude can help you feel more fulfilled in your daily life and less likely to chase the high that acquiring something new brings. It also leads to delayed gratification and encourages appreciation for planning and saving for large or meaningful goals, such as saving money for an expensive toy, summer camp, or college education.
For children, the ability to delay gratification has been correlated with greater life-long success, as studied in the now-famous “Marshmallow Study,” where kids were given one marshmallow and allowed to eat it immediately, or could wait longer and receive two marshmallows to eat. The children were tracked in subsequent studies and those who waited ended up having higher SAT scores, lower levels of substance abuse, lower likelihood of obesity, better responses to stress, better social skills as reported by their parents, and generally better scores in a range of other life measures.
So how do you harness gratitude and delayed gratification? With a few simple habits and behavior changes, your kids will be on their way to appreciating what they have and cultivating abundance.
Show them what gratitude looks like.
By modeling grateful behavior, we help children appreciate everything they receive in daily life. Saying thank you when someone brings your food or holds a door, expressing appreciation for beautiful weather or a delicious meal, and generally looking for the good helps children model that healthy, positive outlook.
Bring back the art of “thank you.”
When someone does something special for your child, help them share their appreciation. A thank you note works well for older kids, but younger children can draw a picture of their new toy from grandma, or the kind teacher who helps them learn. Even having them acknowledge kindness with eye contact, a smile, or an enthusiastic “thank you!” helps make the point that gratitude is important, and makes us and others feel good.
Take a gratitude walk.
Head out for a stroll around the neighborhood or at a nearby trail, and challenge your child to identify as many things they can that they’re grateful for, starting with the world around them. Even something as simple as a mailbox can prompt an “I’m grateful for cards from family” or “I’m grateful for the postal workers who bring our packages.” Try to keep them on a roll, and bounce back and forth between the two of you, with both of you sharing as you walk.
Make it a nightly ritual.
As you wind down for the night, have your kids reflect on their day. What good things happened? Try to share at least three, even if it is as obvious as a warm, soft bed or a safe home to live in. You can even expand it to include gratitude for kindnesses done for them, and kindness they shared with others. Studies show that gratitude can help us sleep by cultivating more positive thoughts, which help keep pessimism and nightly worries at bay.
Help them use their strengths to fuel gratitude.
Foster your child’s understanding of their unique gifts and abilities, and encourage them to use those strengths to help others when possible. A dog-lover could help walk an elderly neighbor’s dog; a Lego fan can volunteer to play with a busy mom’s toddler, or a mathlete can tutor younger kids at school. Helping others fuels self-esteem and an appreciation for all that your child has or can do.
Fostering an appreciative mindset is an investment in your child that will pay dividends for life, and set them up for success with finances and beyond. To explore more strategies to enhance your wellbeing and financial health, connect with one of our advisors today.