[ 13 ] ways to raise grateful kids

For the past few weeks I’ve been taking an informal survey among parents who have well-adjusted kids (of all ages) who possess an attitude of gratitude. I’ve asked the question, “What are purposeful, practical ways you’ve tried to train your kids to be grateful?”

Here are several common themes – and a few additions of my own.

  1. Travel: expose your kids to different cultures. This will provide perspective that “our way” isn’t the only way to live. Kids will also inherently understand that life isn’t as bad as they might have originally thought.
  2. Have your kids spend time hanging around with grateful and wise adults. Invite wise and trusted grownups over for dinner or a BBQ on Saturday afternoon. Role models are significant; surrounding your kids with grateful role models makes sense.
  3. Teach gratitude rigorously. Point thankful spirits out in other people. Kneel down and look your kids in the eyes and tell them they did a good job thanking someone else. When they fail to say ‘please’ or ‘thank you,’ lovingly correct and guide them to respond with appropriate words right then and there. Don’t miss the teachable moment.
  4. Confront entitlement immediately. Snuff out any spirit of whining or an attitude of “I deserve this” in your kids. Be kind, but firm. Simply do not tolerate it.
  5. Make events and outings special, but not assumed. When kids assume special events or trips will always be there, entitlement begins to creep in.
  6. Model it. It may seem obvious, but it can be easy for mom and dad to forget that modeling is the most significant way to guide our children. Eliminate sarcasm or complaining in your conversation. Remember: more is caught than taught. 
  7. Read Scripture together. The Bible has numerous verses about gratitude. Consider reading from the Psalms regularly or before dinner.
  8. Minimize (or eliminate) time with television, advertisements and commercials. The goal of marketing and advertising is to make you discontent with what you currently have. Studies reveal that, regardless of income level, there is a direct correlation between the amount of hours people watch television with the amount of money they spend each month.
  9. Give and serve as a family. Seek out ways to serve as a family (and not just around the holidays). Whether its for a few hours at the local soup kitchen or homeless shelter on a Saturday morning or a week-long mission trip, it builds memories, allows for healthy modeling and provides perspective that breeds thankfulness.
  10. Find the right balance between work and play. Communicate to your entire family that there will be times where we will play hard and there will be times where we will work hard. Expect both. Create age-appropriate chores – and schedule fun times to make memories together.
  11. Refrain from buying everything your kids want. Pushing the cart through the toy section at Target can be dangerous, but don’t give in. At appropriate times, bless your children, but don’t give in to every request for something. The worst thing we can do as parents is to give our kids everything they think they want – when they want it.
  12. Refuse the comparison trap. Refuse to allow your kids to compare themselves with other kids, especially regarding possessions and ‘their stuff.’ The root of discontentment is comparison.
  13. Watch the language. Have a keen ear for phrases like “I need that doll,” “I want that toy,” “She has ____ and I don’t…” or any other form of whining. If you hear it in the grocery aisle or from the backseat of the van, address it immediately. This includes non-verbals like pouting or smirking.

What about you? What else would you add to the list? 

13 Replies to “[ 13 ] ways to raise grateful kids”

  1. My wife and I aren’t parents yet, but as we talk about having kids soon, the topic you bring up strikes a nerve with me. I love the tips in this post, and think we’ll be holding them close to the heart as the time to raise some grateful kids comes about! Thanks.

  2. I’ve noticed that when you keep life simple, you tend to have more of an appreciation for things. My grown daughter has struggled financially and because of the lack..she has come to appreciate a ‘humble’ meal. She has provided a dinner time meal of tomato sandwiches for her family and appreciates the meal in a way that she has never before. I believe THIS appreciation and gratitude came from ‘lack’.
    When we keep things simple in our childrens lives and ours…we learn to appreciate the things that come along! Her children cannot get something at the store Everytime they go. But when they do get something, it truly is a treat.
    We have become spoiled with the abundance in this country. Even the poor have more than some in other countries. Our children learn most from what they see. Especially in us! If we are never satisfied nor grateful with the small things, why would they be any different? We….first must appreciate and be grateful for the smallest of things in our lives. They will follow suit. We must not despise the day of small beginnings.

  3. These are good. We’ve been working on several of these already. A quick note on TV… we don’t have cable and our basic channels rarely come in, so we either have a DVD or netflix when the kids are allowed to watch a show. When Christmas came around, they had no idea what to “ask for” for Christmas. At first I was baffled that they could not come up with a single item other than saying “a new bouncy ball” which they already had. And then I remembered. No Commercials. It was amazing. They can still point things out that they like at Target when they see them, but they don’t have a mental image of an advertisement of the latest toy craze. They were happy with what they already have.

  4. So many great insights and practical pointers in here-thank you! Aside from material possessions, we often talk about having a grateful heart for our health, and the ability to see, hear, taste, smell, walk, etc. So easy to overlook, but we never want to take those gifts for granted. Whenever we hear a siren from a rescue vehicle, we stop and pray for those involved,’and we praise the Lord for his protection over us. I also involve my kids to help me in the kitchen when preparing a meal for someone in need.

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  6. Reading this, I see that instincts served us well as well raised our kids (24, 32, 34 and 36). As we’ve become grandparents to 7 (1, 3, 4, 9, 13, 14, 16) spread across the country we’ve chosen to be known for giving books, games, and bonds.

  7. Great tips. A list to post on the fridge, for sure. We try to teach our kids to be thankful, but it’s a challenge for sure. One of our larger struggles is with my MIL. She constantly criticizes us because the kids don’t say thanks (they do to others), but she’s always giving them stuff, so there is a sense of entitlement or assumption on their part. And then I’m the mean mom who says, no they can’t have stuff. Plus, they don’t see her often. I absolutely KNOW I need to be a better model. 😀

    My question is, when you say to “address it” (#’s 4, 5, and especially 13), what do you do or say? I have one who pouts and refuses to un-pout, one who constantly says “It’s not fair” (that’s right, honey, and I’m sorry), and the constant barage of “can you buy me this’s” (did you bring *your* money?). Whatever I’m doing doesn’t seem to be changing these behaviors much. (Kids ages 8 and under) Could you pass on a few specifics on how you “address” those situations? Thanks!

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