How To Teach Your Kids Gratitude

Kids not quite as grateful as you'd hoped? With these tips on how to teach your kids gratitude, your kids can become more grateful too!

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone celebrating in the United States (as well as expats overseas) today! In honor of this national day of giving thanks, I’m thrilled to share a guest post written by a blogging friend of mine, Michele Tripple. If ever there were a Supermom, this amazing mama is definitely one in my eyes! When I asked her if she could write a guest post on how to teach your kids gratitude, this beautiful post is what she sent me. Enjoy!

We have all been there in the store when our child passes by the candy aisle and begs for a candy bar. As parents, we calmly say, “no” and move on… We then pass by the toy section and they beg for the newest toy that has just come out… They beg for it, you calmly say, “no” and then it happens…

The cries, and the kicks. The screams, and the looks from everyone wondering what you are doing to your child.

You quickly pick up the toy they want, race back to the candy aisle, and pick that up too, just to get them to be quiet.

The whole time, while you are thinking in your head “never again will this happen,” your child is grinning ear to ear because they got everything they wanted and they are thinking, “WINNING!”

You go and pay for these items your child really didn’t need. They eat the candy bar quietly on the way home, and they add this brand new toy they “had to have” to the heap of toys that are already there from the previous shopping trips, never to be played with again. All without so much as a thank you or a hug, while you continue to think, is my child grateful for anything I do for them?

Two of the questions that haunt parents the most are these:

1. How do I teach my children to be grateful for what they have?


2. Am I doing enough to teach them this?

I used to be that mom in the store… The one that would walk in, get a cart, and then beg my kids to sit down in it so I could buckle them. Begging didn’t work, so it turned to bribery!

Three minutes into the store and they already had popcorn and a toy from the dollar section, just to sit down. All without a thank you.

You could probably guarantee that we would pick up a few more unnecessary items in that trip, just to get them to not cause a ruckus for everyone to see. Our shopping trips became a dreaded event for me, knowing this would occur and that I would have to buy things that were unappreciated and not needed with no sign of gratitude.

One day I finally decided that this all had to stop and my kids needed to learn that they didn’t need everything. AND they needed to learn that they had many things to be grateful for! So the hard work began to teach our children that there was more to life than popcorn and toys from the store.

Within a month of working with the kids on being grateful our shopping trips were joyful, our hard work was paying off! We could walk into a store and shop like normal human beings! We would talk about things that we saw that they really liked all without begging, crying, kicking, or screaming all thanks to them learning how to be grateful for what they had!

Wanna Know My Tricks for Teaching Your Kids Gratitude?

Well, you are in luck! Because here they are!

How To Teach Your Kids GRATITUDE

G: Give the kids jobs to do

(FWIW, that’s not Michele’s boys, that’s Kimmie scrubbing the toilet in the girls’ bathroom last month!)

The first thing we did was we gave the kids jobs to do around the house. (These weren’t simple jobs like make your bed, although that is a good one to start with! These were real jobs like mow the lawn, clean the toilets, vacuum the carpets…) We did this so they could learn to be responsible and learn that many things take hard work.

I remember the first time I told the boys they were going to clean the toilet! I took them upstairs to their pee-infested toilet and lifted the lid to find the remnants of a typical “boy bathroom.”

They both thought that it was the most disgusting thing that they had ever seen. I looked at them and said, “Yeah, and who do you think cleans it several times a week?” Quietly they said, “You.”

That day they learned just how hard it was to clean the toilet, and since then they have a little bit better aim because they know who has to clean it, them.

Occasionally, if they are busy with school, sports, music, and other after school activities I will sneak in there and clean it. When I do, the gratitude and thanks I get is well worth the 15 minutes of time it took me!

R: Resist the urge of giving them too much

I will have to admit, this one is so hard for me! I think it is hard for all parents, though, because they want their kids to be happy and they don’t ever want them to feel sad or left out. So we give and give and give.

But we must remember: Stuff does not buy happiness. The popcorn or candy I would buy at the store didn’t buy happiness for more than a few minutes. It was quickly gone, and life went on, and that kind gesture was forgotten about in a matter of a couple hours.

Constantly giving to our kids teaches them that they can get anything at any point. We must provide our children with their basic needs, but we need to be careful about overindulging our children in too much stuff, because it becomes an expectation rather than a token of kindness they are grateful for.

Now, when we head to the store, I plan if we will buy something or not well before we go. Then, on the way I will tell them, “Hey, would you like to pick out a new shirt? Or would you like a small candy to share?” They excitedly say yes, and the first thing they do after picking out their item is they are over giving hugs with big smiles saying thank you, and in my head I now get to say, “WINNING!”

A: Attitude of Gratitude

We as parents must have an attitude of gratitude, and as we do our children follow suit. About a year ago I started a gratitude journal, and every day I pick one thing that I am grateful for to write about.

I will be honest, on rough days it is hard to find something to be grateful for, but I always was able to find something when I put my mind to it. Now on my blog each Saturday I post a “There is Sunshine in My Soul” post, to publicly express gratitude for the things that I have. In our home we try really hard to not speak negatively about things, because it just drives our attitude of gratitude right out the window!

T: Teach by example

We can’t expect our kids to be grateful and show appreciation when they don’t see or hear us show sincere gratitude in our lives.

  • Do you your kids hear you thank others for the help you receive?
  • Do you express a heartfelt thank you for the unexpected hug that lit up your morning?
  • Or for them putting their laundry away without being asked?

Kids are little sponges soaking everything up, so we must set ask ourselves what are my kids learning from me?

I LOVE this pic of Michele that her grateful son took when she got him to Scouts!

I: Intentional “Gratitude Moments” every day

This month we have begun to have intentional gratitude moments. Each night at the dinner table we sit down, and we all show a picture of something we are grateful for.  Then we talk about it! (You can see a collage of some of these pictures at the end of the post.)

This has elevated my kids’ level of gratitude. A few weeks ago, my son took a picture of me while I was driving him to Scouts. Why? Because he was grateful for me driving him there!

Take time with your kids every day to have intentional gratitude moments, and see all the wonderful things they are grateful for!

T: It takes Time

Gratitude does not happen overnight. I really wanted to be able to snap my fingers and magically have my kids be grateful, but it didn’t happen that way…It took time.

  • It took trips to the store reminding the kids we weren’t buying anything, and still having tears leaving.
  • Also, it took me changing MY attitude and being more grateful for things in my life.
  • Plus it took me being more intentional, and taking the time to have teachable moments when it came to gratitude.
  • Finally, it took lots of patience… It still takes patience.

My kids are so much better, but they are still not perfect on being grateful. I do still have to remind them to be grateful for the little things at times… It is a learning process.

U: Use the word “NO” with your kids

This goes back to the concept RESIST THE URGE OF GIVING THEM TOO MUCH. Our kids need to hear us say “no,” because our kids don’t need everything or the very best of everything.

When we use the word “no” when necessary, then it makes the “yes” more special and they will be quick to express gratitude for the things we give them.

D: Donate time, talents, and toys

Every year at this time I drag my kids upstairs to the playroom, and we make 3 piles: keep, give away, and trash. Each toy is carefully looked at and put into a pile. The “keeps” are put back, the “trash” goes to the trash can, and the “give away” is packed up and put in the back. Then we drive it to Helping Hands (donation location) so that other children can enjoy what we don’t need anymore.

This teaches so many lessons, but one of the biggest is to be grateful for what we have so that we can give to others.

One of my favorite songs says, “Because I have been given much, I too must give; Because of thy great bounty Lord, Each Day I live; I shall divide my gifts from thee with every brother that I see who has the need of help from me.” (Because I have Been Given Much by Grace Noll Crowell) We can also teach our kids to share their talents with others or donate their time to help one another. By doing these things, it allows them to be grateful for the things that they have.

E: Set Expectations

My children’s school has a saying “Expect your best…” Well, at home we say, “Expect their best.” Set reasonable expectations when it comes to them showing gratitude and thankfulness.

My kids used to complain at dinner, “Chicken again? Why don’t we ever eat anything good?” We sat down and had a heart-to-heart, and stated that this behavior was no longer ok. We set an expectation that no matter what we eat, each member of the family will thank the chef for the meal. Since then, thank-you’s are sincerely given, even from our two year old, because we set that expectation with our kids.

What would you add to help teach your children to be grateful? Let us know in the comments!

If you enjoyed this post on teaching your children gratitude, why not share it with others by pinning this image?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Michele Tripple was raised in California and currently lives in Texas with her husband and their 5 kids. Michele’s passion is helping strengthen families, specifically focusing on blending families together. When Michele is not pursuing her passion, you can find her at her kids’ football games, baseball games, and gymnastics meets cheering them on! She loves the outdoors and going on adventures with her family. She loves running and staying in shape. In her limited free time you will find her in the kitchen trying new recipes or curled up with a good book. You can visit her blogging at Confessions of Parenting!

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39 thoughts on “How To Teach Your Kids Gratitude”

  1. I think the one I really want to do is donate time, talents and toys. I know some of the others about resisting giving too much are on me. But I think getting my daughter involved in the giving process helps her so much more.

    1. This is so true. I have a side project where a bunch of older ladies from the church and I make little pocket-sized teddy bears for the kids in the nearby city’s homeless shelters. Since my kids were born, I’ve made them be involved in this. They had no choice at first (lol I had to schlep them to meetings with me!) but now they help me package (and sometimes deliver) the bears. Great reminders of how blessed they are, and how many have so little and can use our help.

  2. I am going to forward your post URL to my kids. I’ve been telling them that it’s never to early to start teaching kids gratitude. I’m sure they’re going to use your tips and I know I will start as well.

  3. Charity does begin at home and it takes, vigilance, discipline and a degree of flexibility to get everyone on board. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours! 🙂

  4. These are such great suggestions. As a parent, I know what I want to teach my children, but don’t always know how. I admit to buying more than one toy so a shopping trip can go smoothly. That can be an easy opportunity for conversation and change.

    1. I know – that is one of my favorite parts of Michele’s guest post! My mama was super-hard-core when we were little – any whining and BOOM we left the store (though she also gave us advance pep talks AND lots of praise for good behavior after), so I just learned from the pro on this one. It totally works (even if it’s a pain the few times you have to call your kids on their bad behavior by leaving your errands).

  5. My husband and I are very good with follow through and I think we’re doing a pretty good job personally. Our issue comes in from the grandparents. They spoil them so much that my child almost immediately asks for his present as soon as he sees them. It’s horrible! I hate it! I’ve asked them repeatedly to not buy them things but it falls on deaf ears.

    1. It is hard. And unfortunate that this is the dynamic you have to deal with. It will sink in eventually, I predict, so keep at it! 🙂 (And make them write those thank you notes!!!)

  6. This is such a great post! My husband and I are trying to do most of this with our boys. We got to a point where they weren’t appreciating what we do around the house, so we made chore charts for them. We also try to teach by example, especially with manners. Although, now anytime someone says “thank you” we all end up singing “you’re welcome” like Maui from Moana!

    1. LOL! I can just imagine the chorus of you’re welcome’s! Yes, it’s funny how my girls have a whole new appreciation of basic things like “flush the toilet” now that I’ve put them in charge of the scrubbing! (with gloves and with an adult getting it set up for them to scrub) – and funny thing, the toilets no longer get so gross!

  7. Pingback: Wandering Wednesday #12 – Confessions of Parenting

  8. Such great tips for moms and dads trying to teach their children gratitude. Exposing them to the realities of life is a sure way to make them think twice about asking for everything they want. I enjoyed the story about having your boys clean the bathrooms… & how they appreciate it so much when you do it now! That’s a total parenting win!

    1. Haha, I agree – nothing like getting a kid to scrub toilets, to suddenly make for kids who don’t trash their own bathrooms quite so much! Glad you enjoyed the post! 🙂

    1. Absolutely! ESPECIALLY around the holidays. Especially when all those toy ads and what the other kids at school want is SO tempting… 🙂

  9. We have a rule- you can only buy things if you earn them. You earn them by doing little “jobs”. At the end of the month my son gets “Paid” based on how many of his jobs he completed. Its a nice points system that has been working for ur. Teaching by example is also very important to us.

    1. That is awesome! I love it! (and I suspect that post-author Michele would love it, too!) Thanks so much for sharing this hack! 🙂

    1. Haha, it all WAS delicious! 🙂 So glad you enjoyed it; I agree, guest author Michele Tripple did a great job on it! 🙂 (Thanks again, Michele!)

    1. I know what you mean about the waiting! One thing I read somewhere, that works when I remember to do it, is this: the FIRST time you ask something, attach a consequence of it not happening. For example, “Please stop bouncing your ball in the house or I’ll need to take it from you.” Or for a chore, “Please get X done now so we will have time to go do Y [fun thing] after.”

  10. There are some really great ideas on this list! I need to get better at giving my kids jobs to do at home, sometimes it’s just easier and faster to do things myself. But I need to remember it’s good for them to help out and contribute!

    1. Thanks, Angela! I totally agree with you (and post author Michele) on this. Make sure to praise them for effort and a job well done, and before you know it, they’ll be doing (at least some of) their jobs when asked, without complaining and with pride! (At least that’s been my experience with our house’s new non-Mama toilet scrubber so far 🙂 …)

  11. I love this post! I agree to having kids pitch in at home because they cannot understand the amount of hardwork goes into a home if they never have to put in the work.

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