How to Teach Kids to Be Grateful

I am so excited for this month! Our gratitude traditions are already in full swing, and I am happy to report they are working. If you want to know how to teach kids to be grateful, you may be in the right place.

All of our toy catalogs came the last few weeks and my kids have yet to wallow in self-pity and begging! Oh, they took very detailed looks through every catalog (more than once) and they specifically marked all the things they want (ALL. THE. THINGS.), and they made sure to point each item out to me and my husband. 

But that was it. I’ve only heard a few “Mom, I really want _____” over the last few weeks. It used to be that they spent weeks in wanting and whining. But not now.

Here are three things we are doing to raise grateful kids. 

1-Teach that Gratitude Helps Us Be Happy

We love Little Critter’s Being Thankful, because it makes teaching this principle so easy. My kids love this book. It is especially good for preschoolers. We read this book over and over. I usually keep it put up the rest of the year to keep it fun in November, when we really need it. And it is only $4 at the time of this writing, which in our house, has been well worth the money. (Not an affiliate link, I just really love this book.)

The best part is Little Critter does most of the work in showing how unhappy he is when he focuses on all the things he wants, and how happy he is when he focuses on being grateful. In the end, everyone has a thankful rock, and it is the most natural thing to suggest that your kids (and yourself!) get your own thankful rocks. A couple years ago, my daughter found a rock and painted it and carried it around for months.

2- Weave Gratitude into Your Family Life

We do something at this time of year: a thankful tree, a gratitude turkey, a thankful collage using clippings from magazines, etc. to remind us to be grateful. You wouldn’t even need to do a craft, if that’s not your thing. Asking your family what they’re grateful for daily or keeping gratitude journals are great options, too. I like the visual reminder hanging in our house, but do what works for your family.

This helps all of us to feel more thankful for what we have and happy in our circumstances. This post is about how to teach kids to be grateful, but I know that my attitude is so important when it comes to teaching my kids. They know how I’m feeling and if I’m feeling grateful, it really helps them to be grateful as well.

3- Turn Gratitude to Stewardship and Giving

This is what really has changed our entire environment, friends. We start with gratitude, which is essential, but I think taking it to giving is what has given my kids control over what they have and what they choose to give, and it has made a huge difference. I could talk about this for ages, but to be brief, here’s an overview.

1- Teach that Everything We Have Comes from God

I like to read a scripture verse to my kids when I explain this principle. Psalm 24:1-2 is a great one.

2- Teach that Because God Has Given Us Everything, He Expects Us to Give

I follow up with this principle. The age of your kids will decide how in depth you can go on this idea.

For preschoolers, I recommend telling the story of the Three Little Pigs, making sure to include the part with the kind man who gives each of the pigs the materials for their houses. We have the version by Bernadette Watts and it is great because the pig in the brick house invites his brothers to live with him in the end. This opens up a great conversation about how the pig received the bricks for free and then freely shared the safety of his home. We talk about how disappointed the man who gave him the bricks would be if he was selfish. You can get this book used for pretty cheap, but you could easily tell the story yourself. Here is an online version that we use sometimes, but the first two pigs get eaten, so you’ll have to draw out the conversation about sharing more–maybe saying “What if there were another pig that wanted a safe house from the wolf? What could this pig do?” and “What do you think the man who gave the pig the bricks would want him to do?”

If you have older kids you could read these verses 1 Chronicles 29:14-16. I explain to my kids that God has freely given everything that we have and He expects us, in being disciples of Christ, to give freely as well. Talk about what your kids can do to give freely. As you plan ways to serve, tell your kids that is one way they are showing their gratitude to God.

3- Go Forth in Giving

As you notice your kids wanting, acknowledge the thing that they want and why, remind them to be thankful for what they have, and ask them to find a way to show thanks by giving to someone else. This can be as simple as writing thank-you notes or as elaborate as earning money to buy gifts for people who are special to them.

Knowing how to teach kids to be grateful can be tricky, but to me, it comes down to helping them to live gratefully, to recognize all God has given them, and to give back. If you want to read more about what we do to raise givers, read this post I wrote last year.

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