Getting kids gritty about gratitude

KellerEmotional Intelligence, Gratitude, Grit, Relationship-based Teaching 1 Comment

Have you ever wished that there was a magical recipe to ensure that the kids in your class were more determined, happier, better behaved and more resilient? Many of us have researched, studied and tried every trick in the book with little – to no success. The magical recipe is simple…GRATITUDE!

If we can teach our kids to be more grateful, they will without doubt be grittier, kinder and happier. But how do we do this? We don’t have the time while teaching a demanding curriculum, we are so busy ensuring they achieve well in the standardised/state testing or our school doesn’t allow for this type of creativity are common excuses that I hear.

The answer to these excuses is two fold. Firstly, how can you not have the time? When something is this important, Make time. Secondly, Grateful students, who are in turn happier, do better academically. It is therefore in your best interest to teach gratitude. They will also deal better with the stress, anxiety and pressure of these assessments if you have taught them the skills of showing gratitude. 

In order to be grateful, we need to implement THREE KEY STRATEGIES.

Strategy 1: Focus children on why good things happen and the people responsible for it

This strategy directs students to begin the discussion on how others were purposefully involved in helping them, something that children do not naturally do. In order to perform it in your classroom, make use of the following ideas:

  • Create a Good Week Journal where students discuss WHAT was so good this week, WHY it was good and WHO was responsible for making it happen. In our Gratitude package, a journal is provided for you.
  • Students should learn about Blessings. A Blessing is when you thank someone, deeply, for their role in making your day.  Therefore, students should create and pass on blessings to others because we know that the act of showing gratitude to others is incredibly valuable to our students’ personal development. 
  • End of Week Journal: At the end of the week, encourage your students to each write down FIVE things that they are ‘grateful’ for. Start by encouraging these to be shared with a partner, progressing to a group of four and finally sharing their FIVE things they are grateful for to the entire classes 
Gratitude Journals are one of the most powerful ways for students to record their “grateful moments” and those who are responsible for those moments

Strategy 2: Manage your OWN emotional experience first

I know what you’re thinking; “What does my emotional experience have to do with anything?”. Well, it has everything to do with it. If we do not remain emotionally healthy, it is impossible for us to impact positively on the lives of the students in our class. 

Managing your own emotional experience first
Manage your own emotional experience first

In one of the schools I worked in, the Headmaster would say to the staff “Remember, this is a place of theatrical honesty” meaning that we have to leave our baggage at the door and come and teach our students, even if it means faking it.

Now, many of us do not have the ability to leave the baggage at the door and we must therefore deal with it,  to ensure our wellbeing and in turn the wellbeing of the lives that we are shaping. We have to do this by moving quickly past the negative events and stretching out the positive events. 

Keeping those negative emotions in check is crucial. Children will know when you are or aren’t being fair. They will stop or show “respect” out of fear, but in the long run you are simply teaching and modelling bad behaviour.

Stress reduction techniques as well as conflict resolution skills will assist you in dealing with these negative emotions and experiences. 

Expanding our positive events is crucial to our performance as educators. As humans, we need a 3:1 ratio of positive to negative experiences in order to be in an emotionally healthy state. 

Therefore, in order to combat any negative experiences we have to STRETCH OUT positive events. Not only does this help us with our personal wellbeing, but it enables us to show more resilience (GRIT) when we face challenges and negative experiences. 

So, take time at home or at your work place to make a difference by:

  • Listening Actively
  • Helping Others
  • Saying Thank You

It sounds so simple, yet we seldom do it.

Strategy 3: Support the Independence of the children in your class

A vital step towards teaching gratitude in the classroom is to ensure we promote and support the students’ independence. 

Connecting in Class
Connecting with your students is a vital step towards promoting gratitude in the classroom

We need to Empathise with students by connecting with them and being aware of their physical needs, emotional needs and personal goals. CARE Circles (A time when sitting in a circle, each opening up and sharing with the class), Goal-Based Daily Diaries and regular “Check-Ins” are great ways to ensure this. 

When we teach, we should do so with an authoritative style. This involves teaching with a high level of warmth and a high level of control. When we teach in this style, students have clear boundaries set for them. They realise that you are in control, should not be “messed with” but that you have their best interests at heart. They realise that in times of need, you are there to support and love them. With this style of teaching, we guarantee our students feel both safe and loved. 

Lastly, gratitude really begins when we balance teacher driven and student driven interactions. The students in our class should be empowered to drive their own learning and lead the way. When both parties start trying to meet the others’ respective goals and needs, we grow the autonomy of the student and thus, gratitude is born. 

I challenge you to put these three strategies into practice in your school or classroom and contact us on or simply comment below to share your gritty gratitude stories. 


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