Raising grateful kids: Three ways to practice gratitude

Written by Kristi Hayes
Published on November 16, 2021

When you google “how to raise grateful kids” a plethora of articles come up. Because isn’t that what we do we need to know something really important? We google it!   

I could be fed up with my entitled children, the complaints or the ungratefulness, and they will immediately hear me typing loudly on the computer.   

Kids: “What are you doing, Mom?”   

Me: “Just aggressively googling how to make you more grateful!” 

Looks like we will sell all our belongings and head to a third world country!   

Sometimes it feels like we want to do something drastic when our kids complain about dinner or are never satisfied with a gift they just received. It can wear a parent out. 

How do we raise grateful kids in a world that doesn’t show this regularly? A world that says, more is more is more. How do we help them not just glance at the verses about being grateful? 

Verses like: “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16–18 ESV).   

Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!” (1 Chronicles 16:34 ESV).

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:4–7).

3 ways to practice gratitude

How do we actually help them live this out on a daily basis?  

I think there are several things that have helped our family. Through trial and lots of error we have come up with a few things that we have been practicing—practicing being the keyword—to help our crew truly have gratitude in our DNA.   

1. Look for things to be grateful for daily 

Not only should you look for things to be grateful for, but teach your kids to speak it or write it down. 

Have your kids find something every day for which to be grateful. If you look for it, you will find it. No matter how hard life is, there is always something we can find to be thankful for. 

I know this saying is so cliché, and it almost pains me to write it. But in some of my darkest days I fought hard to find the good. Having your kids look for it and write it daily will get them into a great habit. 

Have them pick out a journal or spiral bound notebook to write 3 things each night they were grateful for. It will be generic at first, but then as you share with them what you are thankful for it gets more specific. 

When my kids started telling me specific things like clean sheets, a warm bed, and a friend who was kind to them, I knew they were getting it.  

2. Be an example.   

My favorite saying is “It’s more caught than taught.” Our kids watch us, and they do what we do. 

Do they hear us being thankful for things?  Do they witness us pouring out gratitude to others? Do they watch us thank our spouse, a service provider, or a friend? Do they see us notice nature, the pink, cotton candy clouds over head, or the extra sweet piece of juicy watermelon we just ate? 

Are we present enough to see the beauty and show our gratitude towards it?   

3. Give them perspective. 

This is the one that has changed my family’s life the most: being in relationships with those who are different from us, serving others, and showing my kids that others live differently. This gives them a heart of gratitude for what they have, but it also builds an open heart to serving and loving others.   

As we continue down the road of gratitude. Here are some things you can do this month to put gratitude at the forefront.

Grateful Jar: ⁠ Take a mason jar and have your kids decorate it however they want. Grab some tape, paper, gel pens or markers. Write got thanks or be grateful!  Keep a pen and pieces of paper or sticky notes by the jar. Each day make sure they write something they are grateful for. The more specific the better. Keep it up until the end of the year and read on New Years’ Day!   

Grateful Journal: Have your kids pick a journal and write down three things they are grateful for each day.   

Make a list: Take a huge piece of paper and make a list of people for whom you are grateful. Have each family member name a few and each week pick some of those people to text, write, or call to thank them for what they mean in your life.

Consider a few extra resources:

Growing Up Grateful

Thankfulness is not a feeling

Live perfectly imperfect

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Kristi Hayes

Kristi is the wife of Grant, and mom to Holden and Carter Mae. She is the founder of Be Strong Story a company dedicated to helping others Be. Love in their communities. Her passions include helping families love and serve the most vulnerable. She is the author of her first children’s book called, The Lunchbox Note: A Story of Loving Others, based on her family’s true story, and hosts a weekly podcast called Be Love. do good. She is a frequent contributor with Today Parents, and loves walking alongside other parents. She has worked with families and youth for over 15 years. Other fun jobs have included working on Capitol Hill and the White House Press Advance office during George W Bush’s Presidency. Her family currently resides in Waco, where you can find them hiking, mountain biking, or carpooling both of their kids to soccer and gymnastics. 

Read more about Kristi

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