“Look! A princess dress! I want it!! I’m getting that dress!”
“I need a new basketball. Can’t you buy this one for me? My three at home are all flat.
Sometimes my kids behave in a way that makes me wonder where I’ve gone wrong. I seem to be raising the greediest, most ungrateful people around.
Other times I’m amazed at their thoughtful hearts.
“Can I use my money to buy this shirt for Daddy? He’s going to love it!”
“Wow Mom, this boy wants underwear for Christmas. Can we buy him some toys too?”
Four Tips to Teach Your Children Gratitude
We all want our kids to be grateful for what they have and to recognize and respond to other people’s needs. There are moments when these attitudes seem to come naturally and moments when they aren’t so natural.
Thankfully though, we don’t have to leave it up to chance. With a bit of intention and the following four tips, we can raise grateful children.
1. Model gratitude
This may be the most important tip of all since our children learn what they see.
When Kristen of Mommy in Sports noticed an “I want” attitude developing in her daughters, she tackled it head-on by starting with herself, writing in a gratitude journal and modeling the behavior she wanted to see. (She also has a really cute sign you can print off with reminders of how we can live kind, grateful lives. Go check it out!)
In our culture of abundance it is all too easy to fall into the ‘always wanting more’ mindset, whether it be the latest smartphone or different food than what sits in our pantry.
Being grateful takes practice, but even small changes can make a big difference. Try some of these:
- Say ‘Thank you’ often.
- Talk regularly about how grateful you are for all that you have.
- Mention the things you want, but also discuss why you might not need them.
- Give liberally to others.
- For more ideas, check out this post by Lauren of Oh, Honestly which has 71 ideas for showing gratitude to family, friends, and strangers.
2. Don’t give them everything they want
Nothing will teach a child to be ungrateful faster than giving him everything he wants every time he wants it. Instead of gratitude, he’ll develop a sense of entitlement, thinking that he deserves whatever his heart desires.
Of course we want to give our children the things they need and want, but exercising moderation and making them work for some of what they get will teach them to be grateful for what they have (with the added bonuses of learning responsibility and a good work ethic).
Then on the occasions where you do give them something they ask for, it will mean that much more to them.
3. Expose them to the world
It’s easy to get tunnel vision. When I look around, I see nice homes, multiple cars parked in driveways, people dressed in weather-appropriate clothing. With these images in my head on a daily basis, I forget that this is not the way the vast majority of people live.
Our children can’t forget that this isn’t the way most people live because this is all they know. Unless we expose them to the needs of others, they will have no way of knowing how much we have to be thankful for.
Obviously the extent of what we expose our kids to will depend on a number of factors (age, sensitivity, etc.), but there are many ways to do it, from visiting a soup kitchen to reading books about how people live in other parts of the world to going to those other parts of the world.
By taking the opportunity to talk about and see how other people live as often as we can, we will teach our kids that not everyone has it as easy as we do.
4. Live lives of service
Lives of service develop naturally from lives of gratitude. When we realize how much we have to be thankful for and that other people don’t have it as easy as we do, it makes sense that our reaction is to share our blessings with others. The nice thing about the relationship between gratitude and service is that it’s reciprocal. The more we serve, the more grateful we’ll become.
Our kids can help us serve in ways both big and small. Volunteering at a shelter, donating clothing or toys, making a meal for a family in need, there are infinite ways to serve others.
Let’s endeavor together to live our lives with gratitude and instill that attitude in our children.
What other ways do you teach gratitude to your children? Tell us in the comments below.
Because we are thankful for all of you, Miss Humblebee’s Academy is offering a special for the rest of November. For every sale, whether it be a membership or something in our shop, you will receive another one to give away.
Whether it be a month-long subscription, a set of flashcards, or anything else we sell, you’ll get an extra one. Give it to a friend, family member, or someone else you know who would appreciate it. Or if you’re not sure who to give your extra one away to, let us know and we’ll find a child in need.
Happy Thanksgiving! We appreciate you!!