Gratitude is a character trait that parents can nurture in their child as young as four years old and as old as – well, a parent’s job is never really done, right? One way to help children and adolescents develop gratitude is to teach them the difference between their needs and wants. When a child begins to grasp this difference, he can move towards appreciating the things he has that meet his needs and recognizing other things as extras. Fun extras or yummy extras, but not necessary for a safe, healthy, and happy life.
Teaching kids to differentiate between their needs and wants often begins in preschool, is taught throughout their life, and typically gets highlighted around holiday times. As parents we know these life lessons can be taught any time. The following T-chart can be used to encourage kids to define for themselves the difference between things in their life they need to survive, stay safe, and be healthy versus things they want for other reasons. We have included basic needs and typical childhood wants. You can make this a family activity by completing your own needs vs. wants comparison and use it as a conversation starter to talk about gratitude.