10+ Ways to Teach Kids How to be Grateful
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Gratitude goes beyond teaching our kids to say "thank you" and having good manners - it's a mindset and lifestyle. We started IZZAROO with a mission to Be The Good so we are constantly looking for opportunities to practice gratitude and be compassionate to others. Cultivating gratitude and giving more really does increase our own happiness and self-esteem as well as give hope, empathy and optimism toward others. By teaching our kids gratitude, they can begin to appreciate what they have rather than focusing on what they wish they had.
So how can we help our kids learn to live gratefully? Gratitude starts at home, and here are 11 tips to help you start growing an attitude of gratitude in your own household:
1. Model gratitude yourself:
Children learn best by watching their parents model good habits, including gratitude, on a regular basis. While it's great for parents to tell kids to be grateful and give them tools to do so, kids learn from what we do, not what we say. We need to model gratitude, even when we think they are not paying attention. From our experience, they hear and see every move we make. I am shocked at all times I hear our kids say or do exactly what we've said/done in the past (good and bad).
Let's be a consistent role model for our kids to remind them how blessed we truly are and how we can bless others along the way.
2. Make it a ritual:
We love sitting down to enjoy a meal together. Part of what makes meals so great are the conversations that come of it. It's a great time to go around the table and share what we are grateful for. We also love playing simple games with the kids like Family Talk that encourage us to have fun and engaging conversations.
As part of our night time routine, we sit in our "reading corner" and each person gets to share what they are grateful for that day. It's our nightly ritual and one that is so sacred to our family. It's a great way to end the evening together and strengthen our family bond.
3. Carry a Gratitude Rock:
After listening to one of our favorite podcast episodes and learning how David Hensel applies business success principals to family life, I started to apply his approach to practicing gratitude. He carries around a "gratitude rock" all day to remind him to focus on the awesome stuff in his day, not the annoying stuff.
Everyday, I keep a little my gratitude rock in my pocket. Throughout the day, I feel it in my pocket and it reminds me to slow down and think about something grateful in that moment. I can’t begin to tell you how many times this has saved me on days the kids are testing my patience or simply when my mind is consumed with negative self talk. I was amazed by the impact something so simple could have. The kids see me put it in my pocket daily and I explained to them why I do it. ⠀
One evening while we were playing at the beach I thought the kids were collecting rocks to add to their massive nature collection. I was wrong. They were in search of their own gratitude rock! They now each have their own gratitude rocks to remind them to focus on the awesome, not annoying.
4. Kill the A.N.T.s:
I learned this idea of "killing the ANTs" on Jim Kwik's podcast episode on 10 Keys to Optimal Brain Health. It originally came from Dr. Daniel Amen, author of Use Your Brain to Change Your Age. ANTs stands for Automatic Negative Thoughts - like, "I'm not good enough.", "I'll never be able to do it."
When I taught this concept to the kids, I changed "Automatic" to "Annoying" because 1. Real ants can be very annoying. 2. Negative thoughts are definitely annoying. 3. It's more fun to say the word "annoying" and the kids can relate to it better.
When the kids (or I) find ourselves consumed with negative, self defeating thoughts or simply complaining that something isn't going right, someone in the room says "Kill the ANTs!" or "Smash that ANT" or Hulk Smash that ANT" - you get the drift.
It's that simple. With that statement, we let go of the annoying stuff and concentrate on the awesome! It puts us in the right mindset to have an "attitude of gratitude". This has been a game changer for our family.
5. Practice in Advance:
Help children express their gratitude by role playing a situation when they are given gifts. Sometimes children aren't ungrateful or spoiled, they simply need a little help practicing the right words to say when someone does something kind for them or gives them a gift.
6. Encourage Them to Give Back:
There is an old saying "It is better to give than to receive." There is so much truth to this because it really does feel so good to help someone else out.
Last year, the kids gathered up all the toys/books they out grew and sold them to make money to donate to disaster relief efforts for hurricane victims.
When kids give their time and energy to help others, they’re less likely to take things like health, home and family for granted.
7. Write a Handwritten Thank You Note:
Receiving a handwritten written note from someone has the potential of making the recipient's day! We encourage our kids to not only write thank you notes when they receive gifts, but also throughout the year to show their appreciation.
Some opportunities are, appreciation for:
- Family members
It’s a habit that if they start young, they’ll naturally carry throughout life.
8. Make a Handmade Gift:
Gifts can be a great way to show others how much you are grateful for others in your life. The recipient is sure to appreciate the extra time and effort put into a handmade gift.
Like Thank You Notes, there are many opportunities for kids to give a gift of love and appreciation.
We encourage the kids to use their own skills and abilities to personalize their one-of-a-kind gifts.
9. Make a wish (for someone else):
Look for opportunities in your day, like while playing outside, to remind kids of gratitude. Zoey will always stop for dandelions on our bike rides together. She loves blowing and making wishes. This is a great opportunity to remind her that she doesn't have to wish only for herself, she can be selfless and wish for someone else she knows who could use something good to happen for them.
10. Practice Sharing:
What the kids learn in school is so true "sharing IS caring". They become self aware of abundances they have and how sharing can not only help the other person, but makes them feel great about themselves.
11. Downplay the presents:
During birthdays and holidays that generally involve receiving gifts, emphasize what those days are really meant for - spending time with loved ones, making memories and celebrating life. You can put more emphasis on the process and traditions like, decorating cookies and baking birthday cup cakes.
What are some of the ways your family practices gratitude? We know there are countless ways to be grateful and would love to hear what your family does so we can add it to our ever-growing list!
I hope this has inspired you to look for opportunities to practice gratitude with your family!
At IZZAROO, our mission is to Be The Good. If you want to spread more goodness into the world, you'll love our collection of Be The Good shirts. 10% of net profits will benefit organizations that empower underprivileged youth.