Teach your kids to be grateful! Avoid spoiling your kids and instead get tips on teaching kids gratitude so they’re thankful for what they have.
Many of us will (thankfully) never face true hardship at its grittiest. The kind that leaves you walking miles or taking three buses just to buy your groceries. Health diagnoses that leave you weeks or months to live. And most of us don’t worry about diseases we drink from our water. We don’t live in a one-room makeshift home where owning a tin roof over yours is a sign of wealth.
Still, sometimes we lack the empathy for these issues. We’re buffered by our many comforts and the regular hum of our day-to-day life. Our young kids especially don’t know much about these travesties (as they shouldn’t).
Benefits of teaching kids gratitude
It’s easy to mope and feel down, even comparing ourselves to others who seem to have it so easy. But then I remember to practice a great trick: gratitude.
Here are just a few benefits of gratitude, especially in everyday life.
1. You’re less likely to judge yourself or others
Imagine feeling like you can never get ahead. You focus so much on what you don’t have that you compare yourself to others: “I wish I had money to buy even half the clothes she buys,” for instance.
But with gratitude, you remember how many good things you have going for you, or that another person’s success isn’t a measure against your supposed failures. Everyone has both good and bad things happening in their lives, even if it’s not plain to see.
As I say in my book, You Are Enough:
“These simple things are all around us, but sometimes life moves so fast that we don’t notice them. We literally can’t slow down enough to marvel at the bouquet of flowers on the dining table, or that the dining table is even clean. We’re always focused on the next thing to do, not bothering to ask whether any of them are even necessary.”
2. Practicing gratitude gives your children something to model after
I’ve long been a fan of being our kids’ role models. How can we emphasize to our children the importance of being thankful when we ourselves don’t do it?
Gratitude rubs off on your kids. You’ll notice they’ll say phrases like, “I’m so glad we have these crayons to color with.”
And watch how you complain about first-world problems. Sure, it’s fine to vent, but follow it up with something you’re grateful for: “Darn, the hot water is off today! Oh well, at least we have water coming in at all with the cold water.”
3. Gratitude offers a positive outlook on life
Being aware of your blessings, you feel positive about your life, even when times are tough. When bad days happen, you’ll remember the amazing things that have turned out all right.
How to teach kids gratitude
With so many benefits of gratitude, what are some tips on teaching our kids to be grateful?
1. Don’t vent about first-world problems
We’ve all complained about our internet going down, or the car needing a new timing belt. We’ve argued with customer service about returning an online order. They wreck havoc on our days and disrupt our routine and flow. But sometimes we take it too far: We yell and let the issue consume us. Meanwhile, our kids overhear us complaining about and enlarging an issue that may not even be a big deal.
Keep the venting away from the kids. Or explain your frustrations in a calmer manner.
And if you do vent about first-world problems, follow it up with a reminder of what you’re grateful for. “Ugh, we have no hot water coming out of the faucet! Oh well, at least we still have some water coming out at all.”
2. Don’t give your kids too many toys
Giving your kids too many toys has downsides, including appreciating what they have. When you have fifty teddy bears, how special can each one be?
Instead, limit the toys you give. Donate or sell the ones they’ve outgrown. Give your kids “experience” gifts with invaluable memories without the feelings of leftover toys.
Besides, you just might encourage your child’s imagination. She’ll have more opportunity to make her own toys out of household items and crafts.
3. Don’t compare or pine for other things so much
Watch your language when your kids hear you pine for something or compare yourself to your peers. Let’s say you visited a friend’s house, which happens to be much larger and grander than yours. Based on your raves and vents, your kids might learn that their home is second-class.
The less you try to be like others, the more your kids will appreciate what they have. Stop chasing ‘more’ and be grateful for ‘enough and then some.’ ‘More’ is an elusive goal and implies that you’ll be in an endless cycle of never having enough. Teaching your child to appreciate what you have will curb comparisons he might make to others.
4. Expose your kids to different lives
It’s no wonder travel is one of the best teachers out there. When you witness different worlds, you return home grateful for all you have. The same applies to kids who’ve lived in different countries or even cities.
Granted, we’re all not able to travel, much less regularly or live as a local for an extended period of time. Instead, try these ideas:
- Read books about people’s differences, cultures and uniqueness.
- Encourage a variety of friends.
- Volunteer at local food banks, pet shelters and non-profit events.
- Share family stories about perseverance.
- Discuss the environment, the news (appropriately) and community events.
5. Write thank you cards
I was convinced my kids had to be a certain age before they reaped the benefits of writing thank you cards. After all, if they can’t write, how can you write a thank you card? No matter the age, involve your child in acknowledging the people who have given them gifts.
6. Create a tradition of what you’re thankful for
Thanksgiving is a great opportunity to start traditions and teach gratitude. That might mean playing a game of “What are you thankful for” with your extended family. Everyone can guess who wrote what. Draw a tree on a poster or make a wreath and write your thanks on leaves and glue them on. Maybe every night is a tradition of giving thanks as each person says what they’re grateful for.
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When terrible things happen, it’s so easy to feel like most of the world is just as bad, or that there’s not enough good to balance the negativity in your life.
With gratitude, you remember that dwelling on bad things magnifies them. Relish little things like drinking a warm cup of tea. Remember the larger blessings you may have overlooked. This forces you to see that the good in your life usually outnumbers the bad.
Grateful kids come down to us. Model gratitude and your kids will likely follow. Highlight the simple things, such eating fresh pancakes on Saturdays or beautiful weather. Read with your kids about different cultures.
And just as important, thank your kids for everything they’ve given you. This might mean thanking them for the impromptu hug in the morning, or for the artwork they drew for you.
Because we do have so much to be grateful for. I’m sitting here typing on a computer with a heater on and all my meals planned out for the week. Even if we’re struggling through challenges, let’s remind ourselves of everything else we have.
p.s. Check out The Thank You Book by Mary Lyn Ray, a wonderful children’s book about being thankful:
Get more tips:
- Do You Have an Ungrateful Child? What to Do:
- 10 Children’s Books about Making the World a Better Place
- How to Raise a Kind Child
- How to Raise a Non Materialistic Child
- 11 Multicultural Children’s Books to Read with Your Child
I’d love to share with you my 14-page printable handout, How to Unspoil Your Child! Learn effective tips that not only curb misbehavior but focus on rebuilding a strong parent-child relationship. Join my newsletter and get it below—at no cost to you: