One of the most fundamental aspects of parenthood is raising grateful children.
Gratitude and kindness are two crucial human traits which tends to lead to an adulthood of inner happiness and fulfillment.
But how can we teach gratefulness to our children?
It has become harder than ever to teach our children about being grateful when we live in an entitled and materialistic world.
Although that isn’t the case everywhere, or for everyone, society has become more and more entitled and desensitized.
We can blame a million factors, such as technology and social media. However, the truth is that if we cultivate gratefulness in our children from early on, and engrave it deep in their hearts, it will become their nature.
Next, we will cover how to raise grateful children and 15 individual gratefulness activities you can put to practice today.
How to Raise Grateful Children
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1. Lead by example
One of the best ways to teach gratefulness to our children is to lead by example.
Remember the famous phrase, “Do as I as say, not as I do?”
Yeah… that’s not going to get us far when teaching our children this kind of lesson.
You must put gratefulness to action in you daily life and allow you kids to witness it firsthand. That way, when you are getting ready to talk to them about it, you are credible.
This is especially true if you have older kids. When faced with a change, older children tend to put up resistance at first. One of their favorite go-to line, “well you don’t do it so why should I”?
I though so.
In addition, by watching you practice gratefulness, your children are more likely to adopt it themselves from a young age as a life principle, even if it isn’t something that is actively being taught.
For instance, a child whose parents eat broccoli for dinner, are more likely to eat broccoli themselves without being forced to.
So, you get the idea. Teach you children to be grateful by leading by example, but exactly do you do that?
Gratefulness activities for parent to lead by example:
- Pray (or give thanks) for the food you eat when you sit together for every meal
- Include a “thankful prayer” on your school morning routine
- Acknowledge and give thanks to your partner or children out loud when they do something for you
- Express your gratitude to your local service personal in your area (mailman, garbage truck crew, community police and fire station) by writing them a handwritten letter and handing them a small treat (hand-made cookies, cupcakes)
- Opt to be more positive when expressing yourself around your children (e.g. instead of, “it is so hot and unbearable today”, try “what a beautiful sunny day).”
2. A Thankful Mural
The thankful mural is a beautiful activity to do with your children.
It serves for a constant reminder of all the things we should be grateful for. A “thankful mural” also helps kids think about all the things they have and should be grateful for.
Thankful Mural Gratefulness Activity
Every month give each member of your family a post-it note or a custom paper cut out.
Everyone get to write 3 things they are thankful for. Discuss everyone’s answers as a family.
You can opt to store them away in a special Blessings Jar and revisit the jar on New Year’s Eve where you can reread them out loud as a family. That is a great way to end the year and sets a great tone for the new one.Here is a great little book that will go great with this activity for younger children.
Or, you can choose to display them all year round. A cork board is a great place to display them.
Another great way to teach children how to be grateful is to help them realize what they should be thankful for.
Most children today grow up having everything they need from the time they are born.
That can indirectly create a sense of entitlement in our children, which if not careful can be carried into adulthood.
It is our job as parents to teach them about the world. The good and the bad. About the fortunate and not so fortunate, so that they are able to develop a sensitivity compass.
Doing volunteer work is a great way to help kids realize what the world is really like. By helping others who are less fortunate allows them to see firsthand how blessed and fortunate they are indeed.
Volunteering gratefulness activities
Here are some volunteering activities that can help teach kids about gratefulness. Keep in mind the age of the child when picking a volunteering activity.
- Helping at a homeless shelter
- Taking toys to a foster home
- Make “essentials” care packages for the homeless
- Hold a bake sale for a good cause
- Help put together military packages
Just like volunteering, donating time, things, and/or money is a great hands-on way to get children to understand the significance and impact of gratefulness and kindness.
Kids could be very possessive of their things, especially toys.
Teaching them to give, not just from other sources, but from their own stuff is a very significant lesson.
Donating gratefulness activity
Once or twice a year (close to Thanksgiving or during Spring cleaning season are great times) have your kids perform a toy inventory and voluntarily give away 3-5 toys to charity.
Obviously, this depends on the child, their age, and the number of toys they have.
This gratefulness activity works best if you can carry the entire experience through and take the toys in person to a facility that needs them (foster home, homeless shelter, churches, etc.).
Kids learn by watching and by doing. Trust me, they will never forget this day.
5. Set an allowance
How many times do you find yourself telling your children, “money doesn’t grow on trees”.
I believe that one of the most important factors about gratefulness and gratitude is to educate children early on about the value of money.
Where it comes from, how hard it is to earn it, and how we should manage it.
Setting an allowance gratefulness activity
You can put this to practice by setting an allowance for chores they complete around the house on a weekly/monthly basis.
They can use that money to buy something they really want, after they have accumulated enough to afford it.
Managing their own funds, working hard to earn it, and spending it in one (or a few items) will give them a better appreciation for the things they already have.
They will appreciate how hard you work for what you provide for them, and how grateful they should be for it.
6. Count your blessings
Another funny phrase we hear people say all the time is, “you should count your blessings”.
But honestly, if you were a child and your parents told you that, you would be asking yourself, “what does that even mean?”
The goal for this gratefulness activity is to make a list as a of the things you take for granted.
Even as adults we tend to forget how incredibly blessed we are about the smallest things. Just by taking a quick look at the world around us, many of those things would hit home.
A few reminders:
- Clean, accessible water at the touch of our fingers
- A roof over our head
- … and lot more.
With that said, those examples alone are not going to convince a child as to why they should be grateful. After all, most of them have yet to experience life’s hardships.
So, here’s what we can do instead.
Counting your blessings gratefulness activity
Consider and discuss with your kids the following scenario as an example:
The plate of food in from of you didn’t just appear.
- Did you know that farmers worked day in and day out on crops to harvest the ingredients for this meal?
- Then, someone rinsed it and boxed it.
- Truck drivers drove them to the grocery store where someone stacked it neatly for us
- Then mom/dad had to purchase all the ingredients with hard-earned money
- And finally, someone had to cook it before it was places in front of you
Again, take into consideration the age of your children and feel free to alter the content to match their comprehension level. But you get the point.
They don’t know any better. It is our responsibility to create a sense of gratitude and accountability.
7. Gratitude Journal
Having and gratitude journal helps put a lot of things into perceptive.
A gratitude journal is not only a great way to put down on paper all of the positive things in your life, but it can also serve as motivation and encouragement for the “not so good days”.
It can also be a creative outlet for kids to express themselves in a positive way.
Gratitude Journal Activity
- Buy a gratitude journal for each of your kids and yourself
- Explain to them that it is a gratitude journal and that you and them will be doing this activity together
- Pick a day of the week when you sit down together to write positive experiences you had that week
- You can give them the option to read their entry out loud or to keep it private
- Explain the gratitude journal will serve as a reminder of all of their blessings when some days don’t go as planned.
Here are great reads that can guide you along this important parenting principle.
- Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World– by Kristen Welch
- The Me, Me, Me Epidemic: A Step-by-Step Guide to Raising Capable, Grateful Kids in an Over-Entitled World- by Amy McCready
- Making Grateful Kids: The Science of Building Character- By Jeffrey Froh and Giacomo Bono
NOTE: You can get two of these books FREE (in audible form) when you sign up for a 30-day free trial of Amazon Audible.
I highly recommend these books in Audible form for busy moms that are always on the go. Listening to these wonderful books (and many more) while driving, doing the dishes, or going for a jog can be really rewarding.
My father once taught me that the world doesn’t owe us anything, instead we owe the world.
He says that we are born to a world where others have already worked and sacrificed to receive us.
Therefore, we can’t be entitled to anything, because everything and everyone who welcomed our entrance to this word, were the sole contributors.
When we were born, soldiers were already fighting for our freedom. The crib we slept in was built by hands of someone who probably worked on it for hours. And our parents ensured that every single second we were protected and loved.
Then as we grow, we help pay it forward to humanity, with the same gratefulness and compassion to the next generations.
Therefore, it comes down to basics…
Children are not born knowing. So, it is or job to educate them and guide them.
Teach them from early on about gratefulness, humility, kindness, love and compassion.
With these magnificent traits, not only will they help make the world a better place, but they themselves will feel fulfilled and content.
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How do you teach your children about gratefulness and gratitude?