An Attitude of Gratitude: Teaching Kids to Be Grateful

by Amanda Caswell

Hey There,

There’s no doubt that teaching children to say “thank you” is important, but for many of us, instilling a sense of gratitude in our children is an extremely important part of their upbringing. Beyond simply having good manners, gratitude is a specific mindset and lifestyle. From extra helpings of mashed potatoes to kisses from grandparents, during this Thanksgiving season, here are some ways to teach kids to be grateful.

Give Thanks Every Day

Why not take a moment of gratitude every day, not just at Thanksgiving as everyone digs into the turkey. Whether it’s before school or at the dinner table at night, have a moment during the day when each member of the family shares something they are grateful for. From recess and birthday parties, to favorite toys and siblings, expressing thanks on a daily basis helps to develop a positive mindset. Older children can even write down their gratitude in a journal each night before bed. Writing down gratitude can also be helpful when a child is feeling particularly sad. Reading through all the things they have been grateful for in the past can change a mood quickly.

Here are two great printables you can use:

I'm Thankful

I'm Grateful

Be Grateful, Too

Whether it’s your morning cup of coffee, an email from a good friend, or Daddy cleaning the bathrooms, express gratitude as much as you can. Set an example for your children. In addition, let your kids know how grateful you are for them, too. As a parent you probably already do this every time you say, “I love you” or give them a hug. But actually vocalizing and telling your children with words how much they mean to you and how they have blessed the family with their smiles, love, and even silliness can be very special. This also helps them know that gratitude far past material things.

Avoid a Ton of “Stuff”

That old adage “all things in moderation” seems to go out the window sometimes as treats, trinkets, and toys can easily pile up. Yet, it’s a very useful guideline when refusing to buy kids more than they need. Buying kids whatever they want when they want it can lead to bratty behavior and dilutes the value of possessions. The less they have, the more grateful they will be when something shiny and new comes along.

Have Them Donate Old Toys

Giving away to the needy can be an eye-opening experience for even the youngest children. Teaching them that there are less fortunate children who don’t have new toys can help them understand whey they need to be grateful for the things they have.

Write Thank-You Notes

From grandmothers to classmates, everyone loves receiving a hand-written thank you note. Keep plenty of thank you cards on hand or have your child make their own. Sending thank you cards to everyone from little league coaches and gymnastics instructors, to teachers and neighbors, can be a way for kids to recognize those who have done something nice for them. The art of writing thank you notes is something they can carry with them the rest of their lives. 

Say “Thank You” Often

Saying thank you often and having your children hear you say it will help instill it in them. The values our kids embrace start with us. There are plenty of opportunities each day to say and express gratitude; make sure your child hears you doing so.

Link Gratitude to Your Higher Power

For many families, counting ones blessings and spirituality go hand in hand. Emphasizing gratitude through acknowledgment of a higher power might be a way for you to help your children understand the act of being thankful.

There’s no better time to start an attitude of gratitude than during the holiday season. Just imagine how different life would be for everyone if we all adopted thankfulness and expressed it all year long!

XO, Amanda


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Amanda Caswell

About The Author

Amanda Caswell is a fulltime freelance advertising copywriter and writer for a variety of parenting sites. She lives just outside of NYC with her loving husband, two kids, and two cats who still like to think they are her only babies. When she has time to herself she likes to use that 12 seconds of freedom to take a sip of coffee.