Teaching Your Children About Gratitude

How can we teach our children to feel gratitude?

The simplest things, the ones we take for granted, ought to be appreciated. For example, having hands that can function effectively is a great starting point.

A teacher I know asked his class to avoid using their hands for five minutes in order to drive home this point. What an incredible lesson the class learned! In just five minutes they realized what a fantastic gift fully functioning hands and fingers are, and how incapacitated they would be without them!

Gratitude is also learned by example. How often do we hear people complain about having a common cold? In the wintertime, it’s a daily occurrence! Yet, on the other hand, how often have you heard a friend or coworker express their thankfulness that their cold has gone away?

It’s so easy to notice the bad things in life; it takes effort and attention to notice the good. Allow your child to see and hear you express thankfulness for the virus that has disappeared, the sun that has driven away the rain, the ability to live in freedom

A prerequisite to teaching gratitude is not to spoil a child. A spoiled child is one who feels that the world owes him everything, and thus, gratitude is unnecessary. Gratitude means expressing thankfulness- how can a child be thankful for that which he feels is rightfully belonging to him

Not spoiling a child does not mean not giving a child anything beyond mandatory clothing and shelter. It means giving a child what is in his best interests, not giving him things that are contrary to his interest just because he wants them. Thinking ahead with foresight will allow you as the parent to judge accurately what will be good for your child in the long run versus what may be detrimental to him

Creating a family journal of “Things I am Grateful for” is an excellent tool to build up your family’s attitude of gratitude. Specify a time, perhaps each weekend or the first of each month, where the family will sit down together and jot down the things in life for which they are thankful.


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  1. My 6 year old child child is spoiled–has been given too much, mostly by the many other people in her life that know she had a rough start in life (first year of life spent in an orphanage overseas) and seem to want to make it up to her. She doesn’t express much gratitude for a gift unless it’s one that really strikes her fancy–though we’re really working on this.
    However, in many ways she is learning to recognize and express gratitude. When there is a break in a traffic jam I’ll hear her say “Thank you God”. When we say prayers before meals and night prayers we thank God specifically for the good things that happened today, not just the good food. So gratitude has it’s place in our daily routines and it is heartwarming to hear her rely on these patterns without prompting.

  2. One of the best ways to help children see their blessings, is to have them verbally express their blessings. If they are older, you may want to have them write them down.

    Another way to help your children learn to express gratitude is through service. Children learn so much from serving others. They realize that not everyone can shovel a walk, or take out the garbage, so they can do this for someone who is having health troubles.

    Make sure children see the mysteries of God, and thank the Lord for them in their prayers. He has blessed us with such a beautiful world, universe and our own bodies are to be respected and we should thank him for them. A child who knows this, and has this deep knowledge would never use drugs, or engage in pre-marital sex, because they would know how valuable they are to the Lord.

    Just my 2 cents.


  3. The message may have been a good one until it became a message of getting even, of violence…. and then you lost me. That is NOT what I want to teach my children.

  4. I think the message is a good one – especially since most of the children (relatively speaking) are given far to much. Being grateful and thankful are wonderful qualities that I try to instill in my children.
    P.S. – Peggy, what violence are you refering to in the article. I think you have missed the mark a bit on this one!

  5. Ever since my children were two or three years old, part of our good night ritual has been for me to ask each one what they liked about their day and what they didn’t like (this allows them to review the day’s so-clled bad experiences from a delayed perspective; in retrospect, often the ‘trauma’ is not so terrible ‘at the end of the day.’) Often they respond “Everything” and then I ask them to be more specific. Besides giving them the opportunity to review the day just spent, it allows them to verbalize and direct their gratitude not only to their parents, siblings, teachers or whover, but mailnly to the One Above. It gives me the opportunity to impart our values and beliefs to them, While this used to be a nightly ritual, now that my children range in age from fourteen to twenty three, we have slackened off, but even “The big kids” enjoy and take comfort in revisiting this dialogue occassionally, even if it is over the phone, as they are now studying hundreds and sometimes thousands of miles away.
    Sometimes they voice appreciation for a fun day spent with the family,sometimes for feeling better after a stomach ache, sometimes just for a yummy supper and sometimes just for those special moments at the end of their day.

  6. nancy norton says:

    I think it is truly important that before your child goes to bed each night he should tell you one thing that happened during the day that he is truly thankful for. Perhaps it would be that he has the most wonderful mommy in the whole world and how special it is that mommy could be there for him when he cried and felt lonely.

  7. I learned a lot here today! I am grateful for that.

  8. I think that not only should the children say what they are thankful for, but we should lead by example and share our gifts from God each day with our children. Tell them what you are thankful for and be sure to tell them each and every day that they are at the top of the list of the things you are the most grateful for! We all really need to take a breath, hug our children tight and tell them we love them all the time as we cover their faces with kisses.

    P.S. Peggy? What violence in the article are you talking about? I’m lost.

  9. I’ve discovered that thanking God for the unpleasant, difficult or even “bad” things that happened during a day in addition to the good, with the belief that they will be ultimately converted to good helps me to more quickly learn the lessons that might be in that experience, to trust God’s providence and to let go of the attachment to hating or being angry or upset with those experiences. Doing this as a family has increased our children’s gratefulness.

  10. To Elizabeth and Mary —

    Peggy refers to the violence and retribution in the attached 9/11 tribute video. A VERY moving video that reminds us all of that fateful day in song, pictures, and voiceover in the beginning, then dissolves into hatefulness and vengeance.
    As for me, I am willing to overlook that portion of it in favor of the sincerity of the rest.
    It also reminds us of the need to instill gratitude in our children (and even ourselves) for all that we are given.

  11. I agree that we need to recognize the good things that are being done and are around us more often. We focus so much on the negative until it consumes us and that is all that we are about. We should be grateful everyday that we awake. We should be grateful everyday that we awake. Yes, I said it twice, because it is the little things that we forget that we need to try and remember and hold on to. That is how we start showing our children how to be grateful and to show gratitude.

  12. If we are to put the video and the comment on gratitude together then…My gratitude goes beyond me and my family. It reaches out to the fatherless and widows. They earned my gratitude, my promise of defense, and my sacrifice. There’s a big picture here that we need to look at with our kids and then determine what we can do. Gratitude is vain unless it is accompanied by action. Words are not enough. Symbolism without substance. I will teach my kids gratitude with action.

  13. I am so touching when seeing the 911 presentation. I am Indonesian and especially pray for America, and may God bless America. I will teach my kids about what happened on 911…. I especially admire your President. The fact that terrorism will rise in number… will in fact… make us pray continuously for peace and freedom… It is only God and our commitment to the TRUTH… that will help all of us… the citizens of the world to conquer terrorism. They do not have the right to do evil.

  14. The video was moving and I always want to take time around Sept 11 and remember so I never forget the horror of that day. However, I didn’t like it when it delved in to revenge and the hatred side of things. Will my daughters know about 9/11 when it’s appropriate to teach them, yes, but I will not preach the hatred towards Muslims that unfortunately has resulted.

  15. I was speaking of the video and the message it seemed to encourage. I didn’t get past the video to the article, I was surprized to see it here in the context (or out of context as it were) and have since decided to stop reading.

  16. I followed the link and watched the 9/11 clip. It seems like yesterday . . . I live 15 minutes away from the city and it was a tramautic day the likes of which I will never forget. I was expecting my first child and what kept going through my mind was that need to protect my as of yet unborn child from evil and violence in the world around us. Although gratitude is something I am constanly instilling in my children by talking and singing about how grateful I am to g-d for even little things like a nice day, and being grateful to them and for them, the message I would take from 9/11 is not gratitude. It would be teaching children tolerance and not hate. And it giving my children the skills to effectively stand up to bullies and evil in their lives and not appease or allow bullying to happen. It would be great if we could have a discussion forum on that.

  17. To all those who claim that the video promotes violence:

    This video does not promote violence, it promotes justice. And if you have a problem with that then how about your children’s safety? Go read the Koran! Go read the Haddiths! I don’t promote hatred. I do promote the rebuking of anyone who holds to evil ideas or beliefs. The Muslim religion is the only religion that I have ever studied that actually promotes in its religious doctrines the annilation of all those not Muslim. In the Haddiths, it clearly states that Muslims are not bound to be honest to any non-Muslim. If you are not Muslim, you are disposable. We cannot appease them because, by their own documents, they will not rest until the entire world is Muslim. If you cherish your rights as Americans, as humans, then you had better get your head out of the sand and LEARN about the religion so you can make good choices in the voting booth! Osama bin Laden says we are fighting WW3 in Iraq, why can you not see the importance of this struggle. The answer is you do not understand the history of the Muslim people or the religion. I didn’t either until 9/11. These people living in these Muslim countries have NO CHOICE of whether or not to be Muslim. I do not hate the people of the Arab states, but I do hate the evil that has been forced upon them for generations. I hate the ignorance of those boys and men that have been raised to hate America and most do not even know why. I hate the ignorance of Americans that know only the Socialist viewpoint of international relations thanks to our colleges. We should be proud of what has been built since 1776 through hardwork and Capitalism. We should, we must stand up and fight. Not for revenge, but PROTECTION. Protection of our individual rights and freedoms. Make no mistake, the jihadists laugh at our bickering about whether or not to try to fight them. They already know that they have infiltrated. They know how this country works. They are not playing by any rule book. If you are not Muslim, you should be dead. Do not be naive. Did you not see all the video and read all the comments from Muslims who were celebrating 9/11? What will it take to get you to understand? “First they came for the communists, but I wasn’t a communist so I
    didn’t say anything. Then they came for the Jews, but I wasn’t a Jew
    so I didn’t say anything. Then they came for the union members, but
    I wasn’t a union member so I didn’t say anything. Then they came for
    the catholics, but I was a Protestant so I didn’t say anything. When
    they came for the Protestants, there was nobody left to say anything.” So, maybe that it what it will take. Maybe only when they come for you and your children will you think it important enough to fight for the freedom and individual rights of all. For me, 9/11 taught that we have a personal investment in the freedom and education of all peoples. You sit here in America enjoying your freedoms, while women in the Islamic misogynistic society are treated as less than cattle and children raped and indoctrinated to hate America. I will not sit quietly by, while our sisters in womanhood suffer. They cry out in their souls for our help!! Can you not hear them? I will not sit quietly and allow them to spread these evil beliefs. I am not promoting violence, but standing against the violence that the Islamic fascists commit against their own women and children and brothers who do not agree.
    Gratefully American, Dee

    Gratitude is part of our nightly bedtime routine. My husband and my two girls each take turns saying a bad and a good thing that happened that day. It helps us see that the same event can have both aspects of good and bad in it. It can open up some great dialogue. And we make sure each person is safe to say their opinion. After good and bad we each say, “I’m grateful for…(and we pick something specific)” It’s wonderful to end the night with statements such as, “I’m grateful for my warm, cozy bed to sleep in.” or “I’m grateful for another day with all of my family together.” My six-year-old loves this routine and can’t wait to “do gratitudes.”

    Tears came to my eyes as I watched the images of the individuals who died in the planes and the towers. I appreciated that part. But I also felt saddened by the final message of violence that rang out in the end. “We will give you a jihad you won’t forget.” Violence begets violence and messages of revenge and retaliation sound the same and get just about the same results from “either side.” Define an enemy, do violence to an enemy, and pretty much end up becoming like the enemy.

  19. Suzanne Gifford says:

    Dear Ellen Braun, Thanks so much for your dedication to children to deeply love them and teach them the truth. Gratitude is so vital and important. Give thanks in everything. Suffering and giving thanks with all your heart will bring great glory to God and can truly change lives. Sincererly, Suzanne

  20. Thank You Dee, for putting that so passionately and eloquently. I’m very glad that there is a blog on this page that puts Sept. 11 into its proper focus.

  21. For the benefit of those of you who did not receive the email, I’m copying it below:


    9/11 is a very emotional day. I lived about 45 minutes north of
    New York City for most of my life and the horror of the attacks
    affected us in many ways.

    This is a moving 9/11 tribute:


    I’m not ashamed to admit that tears came to my eyes as I watched
    it, and a huge lump developed in my throat. At the end of the
    movie, I was left with an overwhelming feeling of gratitude:
    Thankfulness for the life that I have in sharp contrast to the
    terrifying image of the person who jumped out of the World Trade
    Center to his death.

    How can we teach our children to feel gratitude?

    The simplest things, the ones we take for granted, ought to be
    appreciated. For example, having hands that can function
    effectively is a great starting point. A teacher I know asked his
    class to avoid using their hands for five minutes in order to drive
    home this point. What an incredible lesson the class learned! In
    just five minutes they realized what a fantastic gift fully
    functioning hands and fingers are, and how incapacitated they would
    be without them.

    Read more about instilling gratitude in your child here:


    To our children’s success,


  22. Ellen,
    I’m not sure if anyone but you might read this (i’m writting it way after 9/11/06) so it is directed to you. Thank you for the link to the 9/11 video and the message about gratitude.

    First off, as someone whose family was directly affected by the horrid events of September 11, 2001, that video was a welcomed sight. Not only for myself to refect on what happened and how far we have come since that day but also for others to REMEMBER!! Truely remember that day, how we felt, what we knew and how we all reacted. That video seems to have been made shortly after 9/11 and is not refering to our war in Iraq. With that in mind it’s sure easy for “Peggy” and “Margaret” to condem the following message but how quickly “we forget” what was done to us.

    I have long since given my hate and fear over to God. As a Christian it is not possible to live in hate or anger and still maintain a Christian life. Forgiveness for such things is only possible through Jesus. As for hating Muslims or the teaching of Muslims…. justic is not vengance nor is it hate. It is often fueled by these two things… but do not confuse them. I hope for education and enlightenment for all Muslims. I hope for them to see the hate and murder preached from the Koran. Do not hate the people… but by all means hate the teachings. It is absurd that so many Americans are blind to the truth of the Islamic world. They (an extream majority) want all of us infidels dead. They want to rule the whole world and do not care at all about what happens to the rest of us. It’s in all of thier teachings. That does not mean all Muslims will kill nor does it mean that they are all hate filled. But look around! What are muslim’s and thier leaders doing to stop the practices of terrorists? Nothing!! They as sure doing alot of talk to us and telling us not to hate them and not to judge thier “peaceful religion”! You would have to be truly ignorant to the tachings of Islam to EVER think it was a Peaceful religion!! Now there have always been people from all religions who have twisted the belifes to push thier hate and violence on others ( look at hitler and the KKK), but anyone can read the teachings of Chirst and plainly see that is not what the Bible teaches. Yet when you read the Koran you can plainly see that it is not only okay to kill (even on a massive scale) but it is rewarded and encouraged if those killed are not musilms. You do the math so to speak.

    I do not think it is okay to blindly hate someone for what they believe. Nor do I think it is okay to treat a muslim badly with hate or fear just because they are muslim. They are all Gods children and first and formost they need to be judged on thier actions, words and practices. I hope that the memories of those lost remind us to be vigalient but not blinded by our hate and fear. Just don’t mistake my forgiveness and love for others as a free pass for those muslims (most muslims) trying to teach hate and murder. They must be stopped one way or another. I perfer with education and love, but I understand that force is often the only way to deal with such extream thinkers. Pray for all or humankind. We need it!

    Just food for thought.

    In loving Memory of Peter Gay, American Airlines Flight 11.

  23. Linda Huff says:

    We live in a wired world, moreso our kids so when we understand that it takes effort and attention to notice good, it may be a near impossible feat. Frequently the world of reality is exchnged for a life immersed in MP3 AND i-POD – how will you notice and be grateful for good? Service is a productive way to show gratitude – this too is sadly a dwindling concept. Busy oversubscribed parents barely have time for themselves let alone volunteering – I know that I am generalizing.
    I admire the wisdom of not spoiling a child – a”spoiled child feels the world owes him” at times I think some parents are afraid to say no for fear of losing their child’s love. Likewise , giving on condition can occur – if you are a good boy/girl, Mommy will get you a treat. I agree with the suggestion to think ahead to the consequence of always givig in to demands.
    As far as a family gratitude journal goes I think the idea in principle is charming but in reality when was the last time we wrote a thank you note or called someone to say thank you for a lovely dinner?
    I guess we need baby steps to begin – perhaps an email or a card – then more prose as we become accustomed to the habit and bask in the enjoyment of the feeling. As adults, we must always make sure that oour audio is in sync with our video (Robin Sharma).

  24. Seven years ago today I dropped off my 3 year old for his second day of pre-school. I returned home that morning to find that our world had changed forever. I lost no one on 9/11/01. For that I am gratefull. I know many people who did lose loved ones…My thoughts are with them eternally.
    On that day, I realized that nothing else matters. My husband, son and now daughter are what is important. An empty bank account, dust bunnies in the corner on the floor, and half empty cereal bowls in the sink from dinner (yes, dinner) don’t really matter. It’s the difference you make in the life of your child. Be your partners best friend. (Isn’t that why you married them in the first place.)
    On a normally busy day, I am not the best parent. Today (9/11) I took my daughter to McDonalds after kindergarten. I asked her questions. I talked to her….I listened.
    For that, she was grateful.

  25. I loved to hear what everyone was saying about the article. I am gratefull for the opportunity to discuss these issues. Sometimes we all need to be reminded how blessed we all are.