How to Raise Grateful Children

How to Raise Grateful Children

Don’t forget to say your please and thank yous.

How many times do we hear that in a lifetime?

What does it mean to give thanks?

Saying thank you says good manners for sure but teaching children to truly be thankful is an art. We’ve been trying hard to perfect that art in our house.

Gratitude, showing up for people when they are in need and kindness are not easy to pass along to some children. Our twins are polar opposites in this department. One is a natural. The other, well, let’s just say it’s a learning curve for her at times. She demonstrates all of these character traits but at times they slip her mind. But, she’s only 6 so she has some time yet.

Because of this, we try and stress the importance of grateful hearts each day. Here’s a few of the ways we do that. Please share your own ideas below in the comments.


Here are 6 Ways to Raise Grateful Children:

Be a Gratitude Role Model. When you spend every night writing all your blessings into a journal, you’re bound to pass along the gratitude basket to your children. Saying these blessings out loud to them only reinforces this type of modeling. “I’m so happy you are in my life.” “I’m so honored to have good friends.” “Your Dad is the best Dad in the world.” “I am so grateful to get to spend my day with you.”

Simplicity matters. Keep things simple and children are bound to start noticing the little things in life. We don’t have a lot of fancy things. We only just got our first big-screen TV this year and that was a really big deal. When we bought our newish minivan, it was another really big deal. We aren’t splashy. We aren’t contrived. We just live and try to make a difference in our community every day. The rest is a bonus. We are passing this along to our children delicately while also helping them achieve their own dreams.

Talk about the world. Talk about how the rain is important to the flowers. Talk about how we get our food. Talk about the importance of Sunday morning pancakes. Talk about what matters to your children. Help them see the world from a different perspective. Help him understand that things on the other side aren’t always how they appear and that we must be thankful for what we have and not yearn for what others have. Help your children see life from all sides. Be grateful for it all.

Teach actions. Saying thank you is fine. It is. But in these busy, crazy times of social networking and little connection to real people, it’s important to teach children to SHOW UP and give thanks. Have them write out their thank yous daily in a journal. Call instead of emailing. Give cookies to the school janitor.

Give thanks. For all children, writing or drawing a picture of the things they are thankful for is a great way to get them thinking about being thankful. For the ones not quite ready for that kind of daily devotion, a simple bedtime ritual works wonders. Ask your child what she is grateful for today? Share your own idea or two with her as well.

Make cards. Every now and then, I buy blank cards and let the girls go crazy with decorating them anyway they want. We send those cards to the people in our life that need a lift. Thank you cards are a lost art that some of us really wish we could get people to spend more time on. Make a card. Give thanks daily. Spread joy weekly.


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120 Responses to How to Raise Grateful Children

      • This is wonderful. I have been teaching my son (age 4) that he is very blessed to have the toys and food he has and other possessions. He told me that mommy and daddy go to work to buy him new things and at first this really bothered me. But I then realized I hadnt showed him how to be grateful for he had already. So I have been teaching him to be appreciative and the other day as we were driving in the car he asked if he could go to work with daddy who is a corrections officer so the answer was NO! but I asked why and he said he wanted to make money to buy toys for the little kids that had none. I have never been so touched in all my years. I am so proud of him! I cant wait to take him shopping for the other little kids in the world!

  1. Love, its not something we always think about. We are all so busy all the time that we really need to slow down and appreciative all we have and how can we give back. I just need to tell myself this every day! :-)

  2. I love this post- we try very hard to do more than just say we should be kind- in our daily actions with one another we try to live in a space of generosity in our house (some days are better than others!)- but I also look for bigger ways like adopting families through the homeless shelter at Christmas and having the kids help me shop and deliver the goods. Recently we passed an elderly homeless man begging for change- my son begged for me to stop and to help as he offered his birthday money stating "he needs food and I have some" so we stopped and offered him money, he was grateful- afterwards we prayed for the gentleman. Kindness in children is truly a grassroots level endeavor and I applaud these conversations!

  3. Love the article ideas. Here's one of ours. We write down what we're grateful for, large or small, on stars that we cut out and tape these to a clean side of our fridge that we labeled "Our Blessings".

  4. Great advice! I agree on all points, but especially share your opinion on hand written cards…they really do mean more then just saying thanks. I sometimes just send a thank you note for the tiniest things because so many times those tiny things make a big impact.

  5. Expose children to those less fortunate, especially those in 3rd world countries if at all possible. In Africa the children we work with almost never have toys and are very excited with even a ball. They live in tin shacks and seldom get 3 meals a day. The middle class American is SUPER SUPER RICH by world standards !!!

    • Absolutely! Funny you say this here today because this morning at breakfast I read my daughter’s library book to our girls. The book is called “Elizabeti’s Doll.” And it’s about a little girl in Africa who has a new baby brother and she wants her own baby but she doesn’t have dolls. So she picks up a rock and uses that as her baby. My girls really connected to that story and were so upset when she lost her rock/baby. Thanks for the input!

  6. Thanks for this post. I have really small children but we are always striving for this. Even simple things like remembering to thank mom for making their meals.

  7. We have ‘love buckets’ next to our bedroom doors. Whenever we feel moved or thankful for something about one of our family members, we white them a note to tell them. Something about them we love, or how we appreciated something they did. It has helped slow the bickering down, since the kids aren’t always mad at each other about the last crime committed against them. They have these sweet reminders of the love directed at them!

    • That’s a wonderful idea! Love it. We have dabbled in something here and there but I love the idea of just keeping a bucket handy for all occassions. Thanks for sharing!

  8. This is wonderful. I am a stepmom, and our kids are o lder, but their mom and dad have done a great job in helping them l love life and become grateful stewards. But I am also a teacher, and this has given me lots of great ideas for the month of November. I know they should be grateful daily, but we're going to focus on gratitude during the days before Thanksgiving especially.

  9. Great post! This is really important to me and I think about it all the time. My wife is four months Preggers with our first and we are analyzing everything lol. I feel that kids today show little to no gratitude. It is so absent in today’s society that when you are dealing with a kid who has been raised to show appreciation, it is insanely refreshing. Thanks for this post and I promise to put these tips into action. I love these ideas! Subscribed – look forward to more ideas from you and your family.

  10. Awesome ideas on modeling gratitude! My kids both have white boards mounted in their rooms and we write notes back and forth… I noticed yesterday that my nine year old daughter wrote a note on my six year old sons board that read "I love you Ian.". So sweet. My son wrote me a note on his board recently that was so great, I'm going totry and upload it to you page…

  11. I love the idea of writing blessings in a journal (practice handwriting AND finding something each day to be grateful for!) Loved all the ideas. Thanks for posting!

  12. Saying please, thank-you, you are welcome and I love you, often are important but never forget our children learn so much more by observing than they do by what we tell them. I know, I have 4 grown children with families of their own and no one could have sweeter or more caring off-spring than I have. I believe most of that is because they were taken to SS and church every Sun. and learned how God expected them to treat others and now they practice that each day of their lives and observed their dad and I treat each other with nothing but kindness.
    We are so, so proud of them and how good they are to others.

  13. Great tips and so easy to put into practice. We worked really hard reminding our oldest to say please and thank you when he was little. We said it to each other as well, even for little things, like asking my husband to get the milk out for me while he was up. It seemed like a constant struggle with him. The rest of the kids almost never have to be reminded. They always say please when they want something and say thank you. My 3rd child is my most naturally grateful child. If I pick something up for her while I’m out, she’ll thank me ecstatically for it when I give it to her, but more importantly, she’ll come to me later and say something like, “Thank you so much for getting me those new flip-flops Mommy, I really like them. I’m so glad you thought of me while you were out.” My second child is also better at showing this type of gratitude, but not to the extreme. We also don’t have a lot of stuff, and at Easter and Christmas we shop the World Vision gift catalog and they each pick out a bunny or chicken or clean water for a day to give to someone we’ll never meet. At Christmas we fill at least two Operation Christmas Child boxes through Samaritan’s Purse. We do one for a girl and one for a boy and we head to Target and my husband shops with our boys and I shop with our girls. We use the poem, “something you want, something you need, something to wear and something to read” as our Christmas shopping theme. This helps eliminate overshopping and overspending. Plus, they are more grateful when they get that one thing they really want and not a lot of stuff, just fill the space under a tree.

    • Great tips on the shopping. I hope to delve into that issue a bit later in the year. I have lots to say on that. Isn’t it crazy how different children can be? I’m amazed by it daily having two that are polar opposites on nearly every single thing in life.

  14. Hello,
    We would love to reprint this article in the Newburyport MOthers Club monthly newsletter. Please let us know if we would have permission to do so (and of course citing to the author)

    Thank you!!

  15. I loved reading this post. Thank you.It is so important to say thank you and please to a child first if we want them to understand and feel our gratitude. So often I hear parents respond to their child's thank you with a comment "good manners". How patronising to the child, I feel. How would we as adults feel if we genuinely thanked someone and their response would be "good manners"? I have a two year old and it is truly touching when he says "thank you for…" without being prompted and my response is "you're welcome, sweetheart".

  16. Thank You! to these young parents for keeping these valuable lifes lessons alive and well. Indeed, so very inspiring to know, our parents advice of long ago has yet to become obselete or so yesterday. My sister in England and I, on the phone just today, we're on this very subject of thank you cards and how today it seems, they're not used as often as they could be. Yet to receive one, sure will brighten ones day.

  17. I ask my daughter every day when she gets home from school to name her favorite part of the day. We have a rule that she has to tell about at least one positive thing that happened (first) then if there was something that she didn't enjoy she can share that after the positive. I also ask her to make a point to give at least one person a compliment every day then when she gets home from school I ask her who the compliment was addressed to and how it made her feel. :0)

  18. I love this thank you! my grandma was huge about hand written thank you notes. now that she is gone I continue to have my children do those notes. and in a world where everything is based on technology, now more than ever we need to show our kids the right direction!

  19. Thank you for sharing this! It was eye opening and a reality check for me! I'm a single mother and between the hustle and bustle of everyday its hard to remember all the right things to do! So thanks for sharing!

  20. We have a problem in our house… I thought I had raised my kids right. We helped those in need either by giving money or time, needed items for years. And then we started a Christmas Jar on Thanksgiving born our of our verbalizations of the blessings we were grateful for. The problem was unsettling. Before the main meal, my grown children have gotten very reluctant to go around the table to say aloud what they are grateful for on Thanksgiving. They've even said in advance, "You're not going to make us go around the table and say stuff we're grateful for again, are you? I hate that." And when it's time to give the jar at Christmas, no one wants anything to do with the best part- delivering the filled jar (filled with money we collected since Thanksgiving) to the soup kitchen for them to give to someone not plugged into a social program but yet could really use the help. Where did I go wrong?

    • I am just seeing this post. Sorry! You are doing everything right. But, it's important to remember that it's OK to hold our blessings inside as well. We write our blessings down and then mix them up and we read them aloud trying to guess who wrote what. Makes it fun and removes the pressure. It's wonderful what you're doing. You can't control what your children do and think but you know what is right for you. Keep at it and be the role model. They will get it someday.

  21. Our little one is only 23 months, but she already knows the importance of please and thank you… we will keep teaching her as she grows up, this post just helped a bit more to enrich our routines :) thank you.

  22. Thanks for this post! I happened upon it through Pinterest and it's just what I needed. I'm struggling with my son, just a bit, to help him be more thankful for all he has. We just donated a bunch of toys, and I feel he thought that was a punishment instead of a kind act. I usually like to journal at least five things at night that I'm thankful for that day. I think I might start a board on my sons wall. That we'll think of one thing that we're really thankful for that day, and then we'll say our prayers! Thanks for the inspiration!

    • Liz, when Caileigh was about the age of your son we started doing the Angel Tree at Christmas. Caileigh gets to go pick her angel, then she shops for the items that angel has listed. Money that would be spent on her is spent on someone that doesn't have as much as she does (we keep it below $100.00)

  23. If you can, try and get the BBC series Human Planet, fascinating tomwatch for both adults and children, will have them thinking and appreciating and learning about the whole world!

  24. there are so many who take gratitude for advantage, and it shows in the way that this new generation is growing up. I want my children to know the blessings of hard work and dedicationand gratitiude. thank you so much for sharing this.

  25. Sharing this post and will be using these ideas for our family. (We already do much of this, but the reminders are always great as are the new ideas). Thanks for sharing!

  26. I agree with this idea. With technology taking over and kids thinking they need all the latest “whatever”, it is hard to raise kids that are thankful and not greedy. One thing I have tried to do with my older kids who are now 17 and 13, is to not buy them everything. I have taught them over the years that they need to work and save for many of the things they want. It teaches them not only to wait, but to work and save and appreciate what they do have since they used their own money to buy it. Many times by the time they had enough money saved, they didn’t want that item any more after all. Most kids are living in a world where parents buy them the newest, latest game system, phone, computer, clothes etc….. and kids growing up expecting it, not being thankful and fully appreciative of it.

  27. I don't have children yet, but I remember clever things my mum did and I practice them with my God-children – and see the results!
    My mum always made a point of never telling me to do something, just because she told me, but she would explain the reasons why so I could make a conscious active decision myself.
    For example, on the subject of gratitude, rather than saying to me "say thank you" or "what do you say?" when I had received a gift, she would say to me "how do you think 'X' would feel if you gave her a big hug and said Thank You?" and the cogs would whirr in my head. I would say thanks because I actively wanted to express my gratitude.
    I try this with my God son too, he sometimes feels too shy to give hugs and kisses when I'm leaving. Mum and Dad will be saying "give Tara a hug"… I always go down to his level and say in a quite voice "you don't have to give me a hug if you don't want to, that's OK. But it would make me feel really special and happy if you did. I would like to give you a hug. Because I have really enjoyed spending time with you today and I might not see you for a while." He always comes for a big squeeze and plants a smooch on my face after that, and of course, I always say "Thank you, that makes me feel very loved."
    Its simple but very effective, and fun to watch work – like Magic! x

  28. this is daughter is almost 9 &I love to shop so buy things for her and I all the time so even though I tell her to be thankful and not be selfish its hard to teach..I will do these tips (writing thankfulness I have) but doesnt stick..thanks

  29. Thank YOU! I honestly Love this and it's something I want my children to learn from now Boy 2 Girl 3 <3.

  30. Spot on. Love it and once our 20 month old is a little older, we'll definitely incorporate lots of these into our lives.

  31. Thanks for sharing this. We have 6 children ranging in ages from 8-19. We have always agreed on teaching them about being thankful and for the most part, they have done well in that department.

    We try to always tell them please and thank you, knowing that they will repeat what is done to them.

    We have also tried to teach them the value of a dollar. They have to purchase their own toys or any extras that I don’t buy for groceries. We do buy things for them from time to time but limited income doesn’t allow for much of that. So, when they have their own money, they appreciate the value. Which also means they appreciate what others give to them, even if it’s hand-me-downs.

    Thanks again for your post. :)

  32. It is so hard to teach kids to be grateful for what they have in a time when everything is replaceable. We are blessed with good things in life, but it wasn't always like that. As kids, my husband and I had humble starts. Our three kids however have everything a child needs. We don't over indulge or even coddle them. We try to teach them what is right and what is wrong but there are so many things that I feel we haven't done in order to make them feel lucky to have all that they have. I keep hoping and praying that they will not feel like they are so special and feel like they don't owe anything to anyone.

  33. I have a question… My daughter is 4the 1/2 in preschool. She is ok with manners, she says please and thank. But one thing that has been really getting on my nerves. She doesn't always seem greatful for things she has recived.. For example, one day my husband stopped at the store on his way home from work. He came home with a spiderman monster truck (hot wheel size) and she got upset cause it wasn't the one she wanted. I told her that wasn't nice and she needs to be greatful for everything she has and especially when someone gives her a gift. Luckily, she did not act this way during Christmas, I would have been mortified!! How do I go about this situation in the future?

    One thing our family will start doing next Christmas is adopting a less fortunate family and show her there is other children in the world that are not as fortunate as us and we need to help families in need! Any other ideas would be appreciated :)

    • I worked in a classroom where a teacher did this with the kids (you'll have to read the description). They all had a "bucket" and everytime someone did something nice etc. they got a cotton ball in their bucket. I am in NO way saying that she isn't a happy kid (I have no doubt that she is) and only suggesting this book because it might help her learn/better understand how reactions like the one she had when Marc came home with the toy makes HIM feel (it takes away from his "bucket" and makes him sad). It's a really cute story and it might help. I am not a parent so feel free to take this with a grain of salt (: I think that helping a less fortunate family would be great way to teach empathy & gratitude, too. You're a good mom, you'll figure it out!

  34. Awsome key points.. As parents we must be examples these children are our future. nurturing them today will create strong, independent, self-sufficient men & women tomorrow!!

  35. I know this is old, but it ended up on my feed today…My 14yr old daughter spent Sat together. At 11pm, we found ourselves eating Pesto and crackers on the kitchen island w/Dad. She asked if I thought other parents do that. I said I didn't know…But for me, "this is the good stuff". She said she feels sorry for her friends whose parents don't do dance party every morning or eat pesto out of the jar at 11 at night. We ended the night w/laughs that made us cry and stomachs hurt. The next day at church, she made our evening one of her
    "Highs" and she was grateful for time since we've all been so sickly busy. When I wonder if I'm doing it right, she always assures me somehow I am…And that makes me grateful.

  36. James is my husband, he's still logged in, anyway this is great advice but I think kids who are from familiies who don't have much money to just throw around tend to get the gratitude in better, we are broke by the middle of the month after the bills are paid, eventually it won't be so bad but we are grateful for what we get.

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  38. Love this! Something else I do with my 3 year old is have her partake in giving. Old clothes we can’t fit in, put old toys she does not play with in a pile let her pick out what she would like to donate and talk to her about what good she is doing for another child. When we take the stuff ill let her carry a bag and hand it off. It might not sound like much but it really is!! It teaches a lot! We give food ect. I’m a single mom, and it can get hard but its good to remember other people need help also. So let’s give while we can!

  39. Thanks for this, my husband and I were just talking about it last night how our 4 year old doesn’t really appreciate anything and we were discussing ways to help increase his gratitude and understanding. Definitely pinning this.

  40. I am so grateful to have other moms willing to share their parenting ideas.Thanks so much,I needed some ideas to teach my almost 5yr old son to be grateful.I’m hoping his give me more attitude can be transformed to a I am grateful attitude with these great tips:)

  41. I spoke to my son Justin about his please and thank yous this evening as he seems to have forgotten to say this lately. He mostly starts a sentence these days with “I want” which is very frustrating and usually taps into my anger. Or he wants a reward for everything he does. How do I get away from this reward system which was started by his mother(I am his stepmother). Granted I followed even though I expressed my non-belief in this method of getting children to do what they are supposed to. What happened to self motivation or pride in doing things for yourself…..

    • Hi Melanie, I’m a stepmom too. I relate to the challenge of having two households with varying types of parenting techniques. Consequences & rewards can be a great parenting tool. However, in today’s world of entitlement, the step of teaching gratitude is often lost. The schools tend to give rewards to every child, regardless. So the prize is not even special, it’s just expected! Shawn shared some great ideas in her post above. I’d encourage you to be patient & try to keep your level of frustration down. The best lessons take time & patience. It does seem Justin is in a phase of being focused on his own wants. Consider activities you can do together which would open his eyes to different perspectives. (Don’t let on that teaching gratitude is your goal). Try helping at a soup kitchen, delivering meals on wheels, taking pet food to SPCA, visiting homeless shelters, etc. Afterwards, you & your husband can chat (in front of Justin) about what you noticed. “Gosh, I’m glad we can afford good food each day. Not everyone can”, “Gee, It felt great to give some toys to those kids that did not have any at all”… then sit back and see what he may notice. Be patient. Teach by example. In time, you may be wonderfully surprised at his observations. Get your foot in that door. Once he experiences how gratitude feels in his heart, you can expand on that. HTH

  42. Loved the article. When our kids were young, this was something we always tried to work in. Now, our daughter is in her 2nd year of college. It has been a huge adjustment for me. I miss the way the kids would share about their day after the bus dropped them off. For months, I felt such emptiness without her in the house. I was grateful for her opportunity, but still the sadness hit me HARD. Then I read a Buddhist teaching about giving love away. The point of the activity is to give love withOUT expecting ANYthing in return. Keep your focus on the giving/sharing portion of the activity. After that, whatever happens is a magical gift of the universe. Your job is merely to observe it & enjoy it. The way I’ve implemented this is to send her texts/emails randomly to share tiny moments of joy. Sometimes I’ll send a pic of a pretty sunset or a flower or something funny. I make sure they have nothing to do with tasks or check ups. It’s been awesome. She has begun sending messages to us as well. Last week she sent me a pic of the sun streaming through the trees & commented, “today was so gorgeous I decided to walk to class”. It’s challenging and fun to find ways to continue to have that special connection with them even after they are “big”

  43. Like this post and your tangible advice. I think too often parents underestimate how much “big picture” talking and understanding our young kids can do!

  44. Cultivating Attitude of Gratitude allows us to experience life at a higher spiritual Altitude, impacting our lives and people around us with a greater Magnitude, enabling us to build strong relationships with the Multitude, Simultaneously glorifying GOD in every blessing along the earth's Longitude and Latitude.

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