Gratitude is having an appreciation for your blessings, lessons and hardships in life. More than saying "thanks" for a favor, celebrating a victory, or being grateful for good fortune, gratitude is about recognition of something beyond yourself. When it comes to teaching gratitude to others, especially children, there are easy and practical ways to apply and practice the value of this appreciation.
Show, and tell, but mostly show. Practice gratitude yourself so those you wish to teach will get a well-rounded understanding of the general attitude gratitude brings to your life. Just telling them how to say "thanks" won't necessarily impart the emotional or spiritual connection you are trying to instill in their value system.
Thanks, for everything
Find the blessing or lesson in every circumstance in life. Then, say "thank you" for it. This could be out loud, in your mind, to a specific higher power, or just in general. There's always something for which to be thankful. Even if it's as simple as having food, water, shelter, friends, family, or another breath. Practice your thanks on things that are easy, like successes, good luck and positive outcomes. Then remind yourself to continue your thanks on things that are not so easy, like failures, mistakes, tough luck and setbacks.
Begin a journal dedicated to appreciation and saying thanks. Dedicate a physical book to write in on a daily or weekly basis. As much as I appreciate my computer, writing something in my own handwriting is still special and personal. Each day write three - five entries on things for which you are thankful. The entries do not have to be devoted exclusively to your higher power. Thank the people and other contributors to your life as much as you can, as well.
Softening the blow
Take time out to remember the difficult people and experiences in your life. Set them apart and specifically write down three - five points of appreciation for those circumstances. For example, if you suffered abuse, note how the experience made you a better, stronger person. If you are going through a break-up, write down what you learned from the relationship, and how you will apply it to an even better, healthier future relationship. Keep this list somewhere you can add to it and remind yourself how to appreciate any situation if you are going through another rough patch.
If you do find yourself complaining about or bemoaning an unfavorable life circumstance, try to neutralize that negativity with a positive aspect. Especially if you find yourself being negative around your children, immediately reconcile the complaint with something appreciative. If the subject is appropriate, involve them in trying to find something positive about the situation. Do the same if you notice them focusing on the negative. Make it a game and count the number of positive elements.
Teaching gratitude begins with you. Be grateful for everything in your life, and you will have a much easier time teaching others to do the same. Adopt an attitude of gratitude and appreciation throughout the day, throughout the years, and throughout your life. Gratitude is a value and a skill. It takes practice. As some of us are prone to find fault, or be victims of circumstance.
I try to say "thanks" every day. For my car running, having food, being safe, and even for having a passion, which is writing. I am very grateful to have the opportunity to share what is special and important to me with others.