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How to teach your kids to be grateful

We live in a material world, and unfortunately many of us spoil our kids. Parents want to give their children more than they had growing up, so some spoiling seems inevitable. But we don’t want our self-centered kids to become self-absorbed, ungrateful adults. So what can parents do?

Boy holding up a thank you sign

Step 1: Start when they are young

From the time children are toddlers, we can begin teaching them about gratitude. Start by not giving them everything. It’s OK to want your child to have nice things, but when we give our children every single thing they want, they develop a major sense of entitlement.

Step 2: Make a “get one, donate one” rule

You want to teach your kids about helping others and being grateful for what they have. One of the easiest ways to do that with young children is to make a “get one, donate one” rule. For each new toy (or article of clothing) that your child is given, he must give one away. Donating to the needy or less fortunate is a great way for your kids to learn to be grateful. If possible, don’t just put the toys in a box and drop them off yourself. Let your kids actually see where the toys are going by visiting a children’s hospital or shelter.

Step 3: Volunteer as a family

Speaking of helping the less fortunate, the sooner you can get your children involved in volunteer opportunities, the better. Volunteering is a great way for families to bond, while also helping out others. Check out these ways that you can volunteer as a family.

Step 4: Insist on thank-you notes

From the time your child can write (and even before), you should insist on sending thank-you notes for each gift received, no matter how small. Even toddlers can draw pictures on the card or note, and you can sign their names. This basic act of sending notes is a simple task that will help gratitude stick with them throughout their lives.

Step 5: Take the emphasis off material gifts

Throughout the year (and especially at birthdays and holiday time), downplay the presents. When you are celebrating special occasions, talk about the joy of doing activities together rather than receiving gifts.

Step 6: Practice what you preach

Your children look up to you more than anyone. If you want them to be more grateful, you need to do the same. Make gratitude a part of your daily conversation. Talk about all the things you appreciate, from your husband taking out the trash to your co-workers helping you with a project. By showing and talking about all the things that you have in your lives to be thankful for, you’ll be on the road to raising humble, grateful children.

More about raising grateful kids

Practicing gratitude: Why kids need to make choices
Spoiled rotten: Why you shouldn’t coddle your kids
How to help your child shop for gifts for others

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