Expressing and teaching gratitude is an integral part of the Montessori philosophy of living a graceful, purposeful, and peaceful life. Research shows that feelings of gratitude can heal, energize, and change our lives. In fact, with regular practice of gratitude, we can alter the way our brain neurons work into more positive, productive patterns. The emotions generated by gratitude can create calmness and connectivity within the world around us. That’s why gratitude is at the foundation of teaching emotional, social, and practical life skills in the Montessori classroom.
What is gratitude?
Gratitude is the quality of being thankful–with the ability to show appreciation, act with generosity, and return kindness. Gratitude is the recognition of good things, good people and good deeds. A grateful person focuses on the positive aspects of his or her life with an attitude of appreciation for all that they have versus what they don’t have, i.e. abundance versus scarcity.
Why is gratitude important?
Scientific research over the last decade shows that gratitude:
- Creates feelings of love, compassion, joy and hope when we focus on all the good things that happen to us and the people that bring us happiness.
- Blocks toxic emotions such as envy, resentment, regret and depression. According to Professor of Psychology, Robert Emmens of the University of California, Davis, you cannot be envious and grateful at the same time.
- Strengthens social ties, self-worth, stress resiliency, and coping skills.
In short, grateful people are more forgiving, achieve more, get along better with others, are less depressed, and experience better life outcomes.
“Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.” — Oprah Winfrey
How can we encourage attitudes of gratitude in our children?
Developing attitudes and acts of gratitude in our children starts early. Together, parents and teachers can start by being good role models to build the foundation for a lifetime of joy, grace and love.
Here are a few ways we can practice gratitude every day:
- Daily focus and acknowledgement of the good things that happen each day.
- Receive and share positive experiences with your family and friends.
- Give back the kindness you receive generously.
- Rather than complain, complement.
- Show respect and thoughtfulness to everyone.
- Use two little words often with sincerity: “Thank You.”
Help your children focus on what they appreciate about themselves and those around them.
In the book Making Grateful Kids by Jeffrey J. Froh and Giacomo Bono, research shows that the purposeful practice of gratitude can create appreciative kids who are more self-disciplined, enjoy better relationships, and have more engagement with their schools and communities as compared to less grateful children.