As parents one of the most valuable lessons, we can impart to our children is the importance of gratitude. Gratitude not only fosters a positive outlook on life but also nurtures empathy, resilience, and overall well-being. When we are looking at life with a thankful heart, we spend less time comparing and wanting for things we don’t have. This is how we grow thankful children as we discover how to teach thankfulness.
November gives us the opportunity to focus in on being thankful, but it’s a skill we should be teaching our children daily. I’m sharing 10 ways to instill the spirit of thankfulness in children.
1. Be a Gratitude Role Model
I have a friend who is the most thankful person I know. She can find a reason to be thankful in just about every situation. It’s catching. I find myself looking at hard situations differently because of her. Children often mimic the behavior of the adults in their lives. When you are teaching the importance of gratitude to your children, start by modeling thankfulness yourself. Express your appreciation for the little and big things in life, and they will follow suit.
2. Keep a Gratitude Journal
One of our children is perpetually asking for something new. As soon as this child receives a gift, they are already on to thinking about what they want next. For awhile my husband and I were so frustrated with her apparent lack of thankfulness that it was causing a rift in our relationship with this child. Then we came up with the idea of having her write down 10 things she is thankful for each and every day. This simple practice helped them see how much they already had and reflect on the positive aspects of their lives. It was life changing for our family. You can also start a family gratitude or blessing journal. Tell everyone that you want them to add something to it every day, then on New Year’s Eve read through the gratitude journal and give thanks again for all the blessings of the past year.
3. Share Stories of Gratitude
Read books and stories that emphasize gratitude and kindness. Some great ones include:
- “The Thankful Book” by Todd Parr – This colorful and engaging picture book encourages children to be thankful for the little things in life, such as hugs and good dreams.
- “Grateful: A Song of Giving Thanks” by John Bucchino and illustrated by Anna-Liisa Hakkarainen – This beautifully illustrated picture book is based on a song by John Bucchino and helps children understand the concept of gratitude.
- “The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein – This classic book tells the story of a boy and a tree who share a deep and selfless bond, illustrating the importance of gratitude and giving.
- “Last Stop on Market Street” by Matt de la Peña and illustrated by Christian Robinson – This award-winning picture book follows CJ and his grandmother on a bus ride through their neighborhood, encouraging gratitude for the beauty in everyday life.
- “Wonder” by R.J. Palacio – While not explicitly about gratitude, this novel for teens teaches empathy and kindness, which can lead to a deeper understanding of gratitude as the story unfolds.
4. Volunteer Together
Engage in volunteer activities as a family. Whether it’s helping at a local shelter, participating in a park cleanup, or assisting neighbors, these experiences teach children the significance of giving back to the community and helps them to see that they are part of something bigger than themselves. We live in a world where it’s often celebrated to put ourselves first, teach our children to have a servant’s heart in a “”serve me”” world.
5. Donate Toys and Clothes
In the Western world we all probably live a little in excess. Decluttering allows your children to see how much blessed they really are and gives them the opportunity to donate their toys, clothes, or books they no longer need. This act of generosity can be a powerful lesson in teaching gratitude to our children. You may want to even consider the teaching them the gift of sacrifice by having them donate something that they really love or enjoy so that some other boy or girl can have the same joy.
6. Create Thank-You Cards
Teach your child the importance of expressing gratitude by creating handmade thank-you cards. They can send these to friends, family members, teachers, or anyone who has made a positive impact in their lives. Make it a habit for them to send them out, not just when they receive a physical gift but also when someone does or says something nice that warmed their hearts.
7. Count Blessings During Meals
Incorporate a gratitude ritual during mealtime. Go around the table, and each family member can share something they are thankful for that day. You can also use this time to discuss ways that you can pray for each other as well as others in your life that are struggling.
8. Grow a Gratitude Tree
Create a “”gratitude tree”” using craft materials. Each day, family members can add a leaf with something they are thankful for. Watching the tree fill up can be a visual reminder of the abundance of blessings.
9. Practice Random Acts of Kindness
Challenge your child to perform random acts of kindness, such as holding the door for someone, complimenting a friend, or helping a neighbor. These acts reinforce the importance of gratitude in action.
10. Visit Local Charities
Arrange visits to local charities and organizations with your child. This firsthand experience can give them a deeper understanding of the challenges some individuals face and the importance of helping others. For the last 10 years we have been doing a Meals on Wheels route with our children. They have learned so many lessons on gratitude and life, while delivering meals to those that are homebound. There also isn’t a time that we do it where we don’t receive as big of a blessing back.
Discovering how to teach thankfulness is a precious gift that will serve them well throughout their lives. Remember that cultivating thankfulness is an ongoing process, and your guidance and support are essential in nurturing them into adults who love Jesus, love people and serve well.
How to Teach Thankfulness
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Angela is lover of God, people and fun. She has homeschooled her 4 kiddos for the last 14 years and has only survived her wild crew because of Jesus, coffee and humor.
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