Raising A Grateful Child



The holidays are upon us! A time of giving thanks and acknowledging that it really is “better to give than to receive.” Right? Our culture and media seem to put out a different message though. Commercials are bombarding our kids with the next big toy that they just have to have. Black Friday Thursday shoppers will step away from their families and venture out on Thanksgiving for the sake of a good bargain. It seems ironic that during a season which should be filled with love, kindness, and gratitude, the focus is shifting to consumerism and wanting more. Despite all the distractions, here are a few ways to foster a heart of gratitude in your child this holiday season…

Set the example.

It was true in the classroom when I taught, and it’s true for the home; the most effective way to teach a child a particular behavior is to embody the behavior yourself. It’s that simple. To teach your child gratitude, begin by being a grateful person. Kids exhibit what is modeled for them. Let them see you show your gratitude for others and hear you talk about the things you are thankful for.

Show your appreciation for them.

Thank them for that weed flower they lovingly placed into your hand as they took a break from playing. Tell them how much you enjoy spending time with them. Showing your child appreciation fills their heart to the brim and allows them to spill out gratitude on others. It’s, in turn, a lesson on valuing the things that really matter in life. Through child-like eyes, that limp dandelion pressed into your hand was something of beauty that they wanted to share with you–their beautiful momma. Who wouldn’t be grateful for that?

Write words of gratitude.

Growing up, my momma would leave notes for my sister and me. We’d frequently find bible verses and messages carefully scripted on index cards or in notebooks. The messages would be things she wanted to say to us, chores for the day, and even words of gratitude and affirmation. I love you! Thank you for cleaning up your room. I enjoyed spending time with you yesterday. You and your sister mean so much to me. I’m so thankful for you both! These inked words splashed across the pages and soaked up into our hearts. She had taken the time to show us gratitude in a very intentional way. We also witnessed the countless thank you notes written to others. She clung to the rules of Southern etiquette that said thank you notes were a necessity. You too can take every opportunity to teach your child how meaningful a simple, handwritten note can be.

Be of service.

Provide opportunities for your child to complete random acts of kindness, volunteer, or participate in monthly service projects. Even chores at home can teach gratitude as the child experiences firsthand the work involved in taking care of the home.

Encourage generosity.

This again starts with you. Model the trait by letting your child see your generosity to others. At home, encourage sharing and generosity among siblings and other members of the family. Praise generous acts!

Know that it’s okay to say, “No.”

I remember as a tween and teen whining to my parents, “But I neeeeeed it.” That would often lead to a lecture on needs vs. wants which I would then try to tune out, but the point had been made. I didn’t need whatever it was that I was asking for. I desired it. And there was a difference. How many of you have seen this scenario play out? It’s our responsibility as parents to give our kids what they need, but catering to their every whim is setting the course for disaster. Please don’t misunderstand me. The answer doesn’t always need to be no to that toy or treat, but don’t fall into the trap of saying yes just to avoid tantrums and arguments. I love giving my kids the occasional “just because” treat and presents on special days like birthdays and Christmas, but the answer can’t always be yes. Foster an environment where the kids are appreciative for the things they already have.

“Give thanks in all circumstances.”

A few weeks ago, I was driving my five-year-old daughter to her weekly tennis lesson when I noticed thumps and bumps from one of the tires. The noises and jolts were the tell-tale signs that we had a flat. As I pulled the car off course, I made up my mind not to let our Saturday derail too. Sure, she was going to miss tennis and we were stuck waiting on help with the prospect of the car being in the shop for most of the day. But I told her that I was thankful that we were safe. As we sat together in the car chatting, I noticed the beautiful sunrise over the mountains. “If we have to be stuck, Lydia Grace, at least we have a beautiful view.” She soon followed my lead replying, “Mommy, it’s okay that I’m missing tennis. I’m glad I get to spend time with you.”  Yes, it’s a Pollyanna mentality, but life really can be more beautiful when we look for silver-linings and teach our children to do the same.

Start a new tradition.

Have a place in your home to display the things everyone is thankful for. Maybe it’s a list tacked to the refrigerator, thankful messages stored in a jar, or sweet little cards like these printed and strung up on a garland. Family dinners are a great opportunity to begin new traditions too. After giving thanks for the meal, let everyone share another blessing from the day that they are thankful for.

With Thanksgiving coming up quickly, there should be an increased emphasis on being thankful. Let that attitude of gratitude continue throughout the entire year though. Fostering an environment of gratefulness in your home can lead to a more content, joy-filled kids! Hey, they’ll probably even thank you for these lessons one day!



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here