Teaching Gratitude

As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, there is no better time to teach young children about the concept of gratitude. Here are 8 ways to encourage more grateful kids:

  • 1. Talk about the best parts of your day: Find some time each day to talk about what you are thankful for—perhaps at the dinner table, before bed, or while you are driving in the car. Ask your children “What was the best part of your day?
  • 2. Help your children serve someone who does not “need” charity: It’s great for kids to participate in food drives and other community charity programs, but these events only occur a few times a year and you rarely meet the people you are serving. Find someone in your everyday life to serve regularly. Perhaps you have a neighbor who lives alone and might appreciate leftovers?
  • 3. Say “thank you”: Teach young children to say “thank you” as part of a full sentence—for example, “thank you Daddy for making dinner.”
  • 4. Lead by example: How many times a day do you say “thank you?” Have you told your children what you are thankful for today? Our children are watching us carefully. We can’t ask them to be grateful if we are not. Come home and talk about the happy parts of your day, making a conscious choice not to complain.
  • 5. Practice saying no: Of course kids ask for toys, games, and treats—sometimes on an hourly basis! It’s difficult, if not impossible, to feel grateful when your every whim is granted. Saying “no” makes saying “yes” that much sweeter.
  • 6. Have kids help! It happens to all of us: You give your child a chore, but it’s too agonizing to watch him/her to take forever to clear the table or make a huge mess mixing the pancake batter. The temptation is to step in and do it yourself. But the more you do for him/her, the less they appreciate your efforts. By participating in simple household tasks like feeding the dog or stacking dishes on the counter, kids learn that all these things take effort.
  • 7. Teach that “it is better to give than to receive”: Even toddlers can buy or make gifts for others! Children get immense pleasure out of giving gifts and seeing you express gratitude for them.
  • 8. Give experiential gifts, not “stuff”: Too many toys? How about gifting a membership to the children’s museum, soccer lessons, or a camping trip? Experiential gifts build relationships and NOT materialism.

Here are some great children’s books about gratitude:

all the world

All the World by Liz Garton Scanlon

an awesome book

An Awesome Book of Thanks by Dallas Clayton

bear says thanks

Bear Says Thanks by Karma Wilson

did i ever tell you how lucky you are

Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are? by Dr. Seuss

grateful a song of giving thanks

Grateful: A Song of Giving Thanks by John Buccino

gratitude soup

Gratitude Soup by Olivia Rosewood