We live in an age of entitlement. From smartphones to 2-hour delivery, we don’t have to wait much anymore. So how do we teach our children to be grateful?
It’s actually pretty easy if as parents we can slow down for five minutes to think about it. Everything I suggest is super simple, but it just takes being intentional.
Plus, I made a fun printable family gratitude bingo. Making gratitude feel like a chore defeats the purpose.
I know you are busy, stretched parents and you might not have the mental or physical bandwidth to do a whole kindness challenge. But doing five activities to get a BINGO is more manageable.
So grab another cup of coffee and check out this list of 10 easy ways you can teach your children to be grateful.
Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links; read more here.
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1. Read Books about Gratitude
We have been reading books about gratitude in our family. When the familiar characters demonstrate the behaviors we hope to see in our children, it makes it more accessible for them to mimic that gratitude.
My older children (ages 4 and 8) aren’t really abstract thinkers yet so concrete examples seem to have the best results.
The books we’re reading are:
My children are crazy about Gerald and Piggie. This hilarious easy-reader book demonstrates how easy it is to give genuine thank yous to show appreciation for those we love.
This book features the classic characters of my childhood and my eight-year old daughter finds them relatable as well. Brother and Sister struggle with comparison about everything their friends have that they don’t have – like Bearbie dolls and the latest video games. During a thunderstorm, Mama and Papa Bear help the cubs understand they have so much to be grateful for.
The cute board book is great for toddlers and preschoolers. Llama Llama and his friends and family model how to give thanks for things like blue skies and food to eat. It’s a great basic book for little ones.
When Splat’s best friend needs cheering up, Splat shares tons of funny reasons why he is grateful for his friend. This book is a great model for older kids about how showing appreciation can positively affect others.
While most of this book is a retelling of the Thanksgiving story, at the end Pete and his family sit around the table and discuss what they are thankful for. Since we read this book two years ago, this habit has persisted with our daughter at family dinners.
2. Model gratitude
Try challenging yourself to model gratitude for you children. Challenge yourself to think of something you are grateful for every day and to tell your children.
During your morning routine before school or daycare, you can tell your children. “I am grateful that you —.” This has the double bonus of being a meaningful source of praise for your children.
If you’re like me and trying to remember 5,000 things, try setting an alarm on your phone as a reminder.
3. Practice using please and thank you at mealtimes
This is a habit that doesn’t take too much time or attention either. You can announce that for the month, it’s a good idea to work on remember please and thank you. These are important manners and they help children learn gratitude.
4. Give fewer choices
One of the reasons children struggle with gratitude these days is because we have such abundance.
Like I mentioned above, we can get groceries delivered within two hours. We have thousands of shows and movies available on-demand in seconds.
This is convenient for parents and frees up time for other things. But our kids get used to the abundance and take it for granted.
Think about all the ways you are catering to your kiddos.
- Is there a way you can give them fewer options?
- Instead of 8 different crackers in the pantry, can you just have two?
- Can you cancel Netflix or Hulu, and just keep Prime Video?
Try giving fewer choices.
5. Give your children chores
You need to give your kids chores. Really.
So often as adults we don’t give our children chores because it’s easier to do it ourselves. Plus we’re exhausted. Just getting them to do their basic hygiene so you can get to school and work on time can be an ordeal.
This is really a mistake though. Chores teach kids to be more grateful.
Rather than feeling entitled to have someone else pick up after them, chores make kids realize the amount of work it takes to keep a household running. Simply, chores build gratitude.
Also, don’t make the same mistake I have and overthink chores.
Think simple hacks: like I put a damp sponge in front of each child as they eat breakfast. So they are building the habit of wipe the kitchen table now. This is a reasonable chore for little kids.
Keep it simple and give your children chores.
6. Have a daily gratitude conversation
While you’re going to model gratitude for them in your life, it’s also good to have a daily gratitude conversations. You can build this into mealtimes. My daughter started doing this after we read Pete the Cat: The First Thanksgiving.
If mealtime is too hard for your family, bedtime can work well. Ask your child what they are grateful for that day. That conversation might have the added bonus of making you look forward to bedtime rather than dread it!
7. Give an allowance
This might seem counter-intuitive. Give them an allowance in order to get my kid to be grateful?! But hear me out.
We had a problem with the “gimmies” this year when our child wanted ALL THE TOYS. We managed that greed by giving an allowance and saying she could use it to purchase her own toys.
Then, from your child’s abundance, ask them to give something to someone else. We have this as part of our daughter’s weekly allowance. She gets a dollar per year (so $7). $5 is for spending, $1 in for sharing, and $1 is for savings. You can chose a different ratio if that works for your family.
Thus, my daughter has money set aside to donate at church or other charitable causes. She is learning she can’t spend all her money on Beanie Boos.
8. Make donations as a family
Our church puts out Thanksgiving baskets each year. We have a set grocery amount each week and I show my children when we buy for others, we’re giving out of our abundance.
If we’re buy a $25 turkey, we might skip fruit snacks and chicken nuggets but still get the milk and apples.
We have tons of food in the pantry and freezer and won’t come close to starving.
We trying to teach that we live simply so others can simply live.
9. Express thankfulness to others
Write thank-you notes with your children. Not just for birthday presents, but just to genuine gratitude for others.
One easy hack is to ask your child if they want to write “Thank You” or “I love you” on an art project they already created and send it to their grandparent or teacher.
10. Play the Free Family Gratitude Bingo printable
I know you are busy parents. You can do hard things, but you can’t do all the things.
So I made this printable Family Gratitude Bingo for your family. You can get a bingo, or get bingo twice, or aim for blackout.
Recapping Teach Your Children to be Grateful
Here’s your summary for exhausted parents:
- Reading books about gratitude can be a good starting point.
- Model gratitude for your children by saying what you’re thankful for.
- Practice using please and thank you at mealtimes if you’ve fallen out of practice.
- Give your children fewer choices so they aren’t so used to abundance.
- Give your children chores – really. Think simple like wipe the table and don’t expect perfect – just done.
- Have a daily gratitude conversation to see what your child is thankful for.
- Give an allowance to manage the “gimmies.”
- Make donations as a family for a Thanksgiving meal or another food drive.
- Express thankfulness others by sending cards.
- Play Family Gratitude Bingo – everything is simple and manageable because we are busy parents.
Sometimes it’s easy to think our kids are so entitled and there is nothing we can do about it. Or we make it complicated.
But teaching gratitude can be really simple. Grab this printable Family Gratitude Bingo and see how fun being grateful can be!