Instilling Gratitude and Thankfulness in Your Child

The concept of thankfulness can be difficult for adults to embrace, and even harder for children and teens who developmentally believe the world revolves around them.

Consider these tips to help instill gratitude and thankfulness in your child:

  • Work gratitude into your daily conversation. Try to weave appreciation for mundane things into your everyday talk. “I’m thankful that daddy made us breakfast.” “We are lucky to have a fun dog to play with.” Remember to express gratitude to people who help you, from the crossing guard who gets you safely across the street, to the clerk who rings you up at the grocery store.
  • Start a Family Tradition. Make gratitude a habit. Go around the dinner table saying one thing you’re grateful for. Or at bedtime, note the small things that you enjoyed during the day. Play the “Rose and Thorn” game, where you and your child share one rose (a good thing) and one thorn (a challenging thing) from your day. A metaphor like the rose helps children develop gratitude even when things aren’t going their way.
  • Have kids help around the house. The more you do for them, the less they appreciate your efforts. Who hasn’t felt more empathy for people who work outside on cold days when you’ve just been out shoveling snow yourself? By participating in simple household chores like feeding the dog or setting the table, kids realize that all these things take effort.
  • Look for ways to be involved in community giving. Make giving and volunteering a habit. Donate used toys or clothing to help children in need. This allows you to talk about giving back and why it’s important to be grateful for what your family has.
  • Monitor the amount of material things.  Sometime kids can be inundated with more toys than they can use – or appreciate. If your child has an upcoming birthday, consider asking for “experiences” (tickets to a movie or passes to the children’s museum) rather than things. Or, consider asking guests to bring a toy or book to donate to a local nonprofit – it’s a great way to model gratitude to your friends!

Remember that you may not see an immediate change in your child, but your ongoing effort and example will help instill gratitude as a way of life.


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Sources: PBS Parents and Zero to Three NOTE: This information should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of a mental health condition.  Call 612-871-1454 to learn more about Washburn Center’s mental health services for children.