How Do You Raise a Grateful Kid?

One of the most popular questions I get when I talk about gratitude is “How do I get my kids to be more grateful?”  We all have personal stories of planning for months to take our kids on some vacation or some special event expecting our kids to be oh so grateful and you get a meh response with little to no gratitude and you think “what have I done wrong?  Why are my kids ungrateful?”


So, how do you help your kids become more grateful?

We are the Example

Let me start off with a little tough love but don’t get discouraged, keep on reading.  Our kids look up to us.  So, if our kids are being ungrateful, we need to ask ourselves if we have set a good example?   Do they see you expressing gratitude to them, to other family members and friends, those that serve you and strangers who open the door?

Studies show that we are a culmination of the 5 people we hang out with most and I hang out with my family A LOT so what are they catching from me?  Now that I got the gut punch out of the way, if you want to learn how to cultivate your grateful heart you can read 5 keys to cultivating a grateful heart here.  

My top tip would be to write down a list of things you are grateful for every morning when you wake up.  There is power in writing things down and research shows people that start their day with gratitude tend to have more joy-filled days and ultimately more fulfilling lives.  Do I have your attention yet?

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Teach the Behavior You Desire

Once you have tended to your own heart and started to purposefully take opportunities to show gratitude to others, we can explicitly teach this behavior to our kids.  Just like we held our kids when they learned how to walk and we gave them a little push toy to help them practice, we have to hold our kid’s hand as they learn how to practice gratitude.  They are not going to be perfect out of the gate but with practice, it will become easier!

When an opportunity arises or even better before an opportunity, role play with your child the response you would like them to have.  For example, maybe your child is having a birthday party and they will be receiving gifts,  role-play with them what that scenario will look like and how they should respond.

“Johnny, Tom brought you a really nice present.  Look him in the eye and say thank you for this nice gift politely.  Remember, when you give gifts it feels good to be thanked because you put a lot of thought and care into buying the gift, making the card and wrapping it.  It feels good to know the person is thankful.  We want our friend to know we are thankful.”

Praise A Grateful Heart

When you see your child display a grateful heart praise them and tell them you are grateful for their response.  It’s our natural instinct to continue behaviors that are rewarded.  So, praise the behaviors you see that you want to be repeated.

Just the other day, my daughter made my bed because she knew it would make me happy.  I thanked her for her thoughtfulness and guess what she did the next day, she made her sister’s bed.  She knew she would get praised for that behavior and therefore she did it again.

It’s Ok to Say No

As parents, we want to give our kids good gifts.  Oh, how I love seeing my kids light up when I give them a gift.  I hate saying no.  I didn’t like hearing it as a kid either but I sure was thankful when my mom treated us to something special.  When we get everything we want, we tend to feel entitled.  Ultimately, in life, we are going to hear no, so just think of your no as a way to teach your child how to respond when they do hear it.

Your occasional yes will be so much sweeter because chances are your kids will be surprised and crazy thankful (but if they aren’t you can teach them how to respond #becausekids).

Expand Their Horizons

People are always surprised when we tell them all 5 of us are going to China to adopt our son.  Not only do we all want to be together for that special day, Scott and I both believe it’s important for our kids to understand the world is larger and much more diverse than the community we live in.

While we don’t expect a complete heart transformation after one trip, allowing them the opportunity to see different perspectives will hopefully over time give them a greater appreciation for what they have.  You don’t have to go to a foreign country to expand your child’s perspective,  there are opportunities all around us that we can purposefully teach our children about.

Teach Them To Serve & Share

Along the lines of expanding your child’s horizons, serving others and be others focused helps us to focus less on ourselves.  Whether, that’s preparing meals for 3rd world countries, collecting coats for the homeless, serving as a family at church, shoveling a neighbor’s driveway or holding the door open for others.

What are some practical activities to cultivate a Grateful Heart?

Roses & Thorns

This idea was shared by a community member on Instagram and has quickly become our favorite dinnertime tradition. While we are having family dinner we go around the dinner and share roses, things we are grateful for from the day, and thorns, things that were tough.

It never ceases to amaze me the things I learn about my family’s day that I otherwise might not learn from the usual questions.  Often times someone will say they have no thorns at all and a whole lot of roses.  Sometimes, we will even try to collect a dozen!

Sometimes, my kids can’t wait to dinner and will come rushing in the door after school with a “rose”.  When we practice daily gratitude, we start to see it everywhere.

Monthly Gratitude Lists

I have a simple free printable you can download, just sign up here and you can access it.  Often times, life moves so fast we forget to look back and think of all the amazing things we have been able to do and experience as a family.

Taking a moment, it doesn’t have to take long or be fancy, to sit down and make a list of things we were grateful for from that month is powerful.  As a parent, I am always reminded of what really matters to my kids and moving forward to focus on those things more!

Thank you Cards

It might seem old-fashioned or out of date but I still love getting a thank you note in the mail and knowing our gift has been received and was meaningful to the recipient.  When my kids are little, I do most of the writing and then have them draw a picture and sign their name.  As they get older they start to write the thank you note themselves.

Say Please and Thank You

I can’t tell you how many times I have held the door open for someone and they don’t say thank you, I am sure I have forgotten too.  Those two words are so simple but so impactful.   When you teach your kids you will have to remind them often (or every single time).  Don’t forget to get into the habit yourself :)!  A heartfelt thank you goes a long way!

Remember The Golden Rule

My mom always taught us growing up “to treat others how you like to be treated.” When we do something for others, we like to be acknowledged and thanked for our time, efforts and service.  Those that serve us are no different.  Being an example to our kids, explicitly role-playing how to be grateful and daily cultivating gratitude over time will start to yield more grateful kids.

No one is perfect, I still struggle with gratitude and contentment on a daily basis so I can’t expect perfection from my kids either.   Thank goodness for loads of grace too!


You Might Also Like –
5 Keys To Cultivating A Grateful Heart
How To Go from Grumbling to Gratitude
Yes!  I want the Monthly Gratitude Printables – Click here
Until next time, keep on keeping on with a simple purposeful life.
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