Talking to Kids about Gratitude

In my last post I talked about gratitude.
What exactly is gratitude? What are the benefits? How do we teach & nurture it? 

As a parent, it’s my job to help my children interpret the world with gratitude.  However, teaching gratitude is not as easy as training a child to say “thank you.” A child may say “thank you” often and still lack gratitude.

More than just being trained to say “thanks,” a person with gratitude recognizes a good gift when it comes and acknowledges the generosity and kindness of the giver.

Gratitude is an attitude of the heart, a discipline of the Lord, and a mark of good character.

Gratitude is the antidote to entitlement, necessary to contentment, and a precursor to generosity.

Plus, who doesn’t want a gracious, thankful, and content child? I know I do.  So I spent a week trying to discuss & direct my kids’ focus in regards to gratitude.  Here’s how it went.

I asked my kids “What is gratitude?”

Neither one knew.

So, we talked about it – going over some of what I said above.

An hour later I asked again, What’s gratitude? 

The 7 year old, said,
“Being thankful, nice, and kind.”

The 11 year old said,
” saying, ‘It was very nice of you to do it.'”
The baby stayed silent.

I responded
“Right, it’s being thankful and noticing the work that the person did to give.”

I asked them, what are 3 things you are grateful for?

The 11 year old said, “Friends, food, and water from God.”
The 7 year old said, “Getting food, tooting.”
(Did I mention he’s a boy? Like a little real life ragamuffin Dennis the Menace? To his credit, I guess we are better off “tooting” than not.)

The 11 year old chimed in again, “Little siblings!”
The 7 year old, “Yeah, especially me.”
My husband piped up, “Forgiveness, not being in control, my wife.”

Husband for the win.

I followed up with more discussion. After all, talking to kids about gratitude isn’t a one time thing. I wanted them to understand, 
Having gratitude isn’t just being thankful for,
it’s being thankful to.
So we went back over our discussion focusing on who we are grateful to.

Yes, mom and dad and everyone who gives, but always and ultimately God, because without God, no who gives would have anything to give. So we can have gratitude towards mom for a great dinner and to God for providing it.

We also discussed what it looks like to not have gratitude.
“Mad, sad, rude, unkind”
they replied.
I think they have the beginning of understanding. More work is ahead.

What are 3 things you are thankful for and to whom do you owe your gratitude?

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41 Comments

  1. Beth Bingaman says:

    This is a good call for us to be intentional,in our teaching about gratitude. “The antidote to entitlement” is a necessary intervention these days!

    1. Christina Dronen says:

      It really is. We all need a little help sometimes to recognize what we have to be grateful for and to whom!

  2. Emily | To Unearth says:

    Each day during my quiet time with God I try to remember to write down three things I’m thankful for. It’s fun to think of different things each day – some more serious like God’s forgiveness and grace, and other things more fun like date nights with my husband!

    1. Christina Dronen says:

      That’s such a great idea! It’s good to get into the habit like that. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  3. Nancy E. Head says:

    Grace, husband, family.
    We do three things we’re thankful for every Thanksgiving. It’s a special time around the table.
    Gratitude is so important.

    1. Christina Dronen says:

      It is so important. I’m grateful we have Thanksgiving as a national holiday set aside to remind us to be grateful 🙂

  4. Jessica Goyette says:

    Best part? “The baby stayed silent”. I had a good laugh. Sweet family. It’s such a blessing to share these moments with our kids, a huge responsibility but what joy to teach our little ones about Jesus and His ways.

    1. Christina Dronen says:

      Haha! Thanks Jessica!
      I’m so glad. You never know if written humor is going to “land.” Glad i made you laugh.
      It is our most important responsibility – to bring Jesus.

  5. Gratitude seems like a lost virtue in our current culture!
    I am grateful for salvation, my husband and kids.
    I owe every blessing to God!

    1. Christina Dronen says:

      It is 🙂 thanks for sharing!

  6. Liz Peteuzzi says:

    Such an important and practical post. To be intentional and mindful of gratitude and teach the practice to our children. I love the line “gratitude isn’t just being thankful for, gratitude is being thankful to” Words I take with me – thank you for a post that blesses and equips.

    1. Christina Dronen says:

      It my hope to bless and equip 🙂
      Thanks for the encouragement, Liz!

  7. Melissa Henderson says:

    Gratitude is important for all ages. Our 18 months old grandson has learned to say “please” and “thank you”. My husband and I appreciate the kindness he already shows to others.

    1. Christina Dronen says:

      Politeness goes a long way. We all say please and thank you to each other in my family as a way to honor each other.

  8. Linda Samaritoni says:

    1. I’m grateful to my husband for working so hard that I don’t need a day job–which leaves me time to write.
    2. I’m grateful for my quiet time with God, and He deserves the credit for grooming my spirit to eagerly anticipate those minutes or hours with Him.
    3. I’m grateful to God for family. Every time I visit my grandchildren, I marvel at this new little generation and all their personalities.

    1. Christina Dronen says:

      That’s wonderful Linda!
      I look forward to grandchildren someday! Obviously, some long time from now day.
      And I’m grateful for my sweet kids today.
      Sharing what you are grateful for (and those who have above as well) is encouraging gratitude in my own heart too!

  9. Stephen Lewis says:

    Great Post and I especially love this statement: ” Gratitude is an attitude of the heart, a discipline of the Lord, and a mark of good character. Thanks for the great read, God Bless!!

    1. Christina Dronen says:

      Thanks Stephen!
      Glad it is helpful. 🙂

  10. Paul Zunker says:

    There are times that I feel very ungrateful for the things Gods blessed me with. But my kids are indeed watching and end up mimicking what they see in me. What a challenge to be mindful of that!

    1. Christina Dronen says:

      They really do pick up on our behaviors & attitudes! Good point!

  11. Lisa Murray says:

    What a needful lesson that our children and our hearts need to hear! I love, “Gratitude is the antidote to entitlement, necessary to contentment, and a precursor to generosity.”. Amen! Blessings to you!

    1. Christina Dronen says:

      Thanks Lisa 🙂
      Blessings to you!

  12. Yvonne Morgan says:

    Gratitude is an attitude of the heart. And if we don’t teach our children how to be grateful, the world will show them a different way.

    1. Christina Dronen says:

      Yvonne,
      It’s true – there’s plenty of entitled attitudes out there – I can’t imagine them learning gratitude anywhere else

  13. Marcie Cramsey says:

    I’m grateful for God, His Spirit, and the life He has given me.
    I love your definition of gratitude: “Gratitude is an attitude of the heart, a discipline of the Lord, and a mark of good character.”
    Waking up each day with this mindset prepares us for God’s blessing whatever way He chooses to show it.
    My biggest way to sustain a heart of gratitude is to be content with God’s directions. No matter what lot He has provided for me, I trust in His good character. He is always good!
    Great post! Love your kids’ responses! You are good Mama! 🙂

    1. Christina Dronen says:

      Aw thanks Marcie!
      I kind of felt like a failure with their first responses! I really thought they had a better understanding of gratitude to begin with.
      Trusting in God’s good character is so important not only to gratitude but hope and faith as well. 🙂

  14. Melissa McLaughlin says:

    A heart of gratitude can change everything! Your perspective of God as the giver of all good things, your understanding of His great love for us and just a thankful spirit that can outshine the dark clouds overhead. Great post!

    1. Christina Dronen says:

      It really can.
      Gratitude turns our attention back to God and off of ourselves.

  15. Jessica Brodie says:

    This is excellent! And your kids are absolutely adorable. 🙂

    1. Christina Dronen says:

      Thanks Jessica!

  16. Peggy Bodde says:

    God’s grace, the families who took me in as a child, & my husband. Enjoyed this post and seeing gratitude through the eyes of your children! So many things come from and back to gratitude.

    1. Christina Dronen says:

      Thanks for sharing Peggy.
      Gratitude can help us see the good in a tough situation. That you needed families to take you in was not great, but that they were there is a blessing.
      And His grace and our salvation – can we ever be grateful enough?
      A reminder that humbles us – that we haven’t earned our place with God, but are so valued and treasured anyway.

  17. Stephen De La Vega says:

    Hi Christina. Sounds like you have wonderful kids. I’m grateful for my wife and I owe her much. I’m also grateful for God in caring for my family and keeping them in proper step with Him. And I’m grateful for a wonderful community of writers on FB and Twitter.
    Also, your post reminded me of a Fathers Day card I received from my son a few years back. It was homemade and it said: Happy Farters Day. Gotta love it… I guess.

    1. Christina Dronen says:

      Hi Stephen,
      I’m pretty fond of them 🙂
      And I am grateful for the community of writers on social media too!
      I love that card! LOL. How cute.

  18. Wendy Wallace/One Exceptional Life says:

    I love how you have group discussions to write your posts. I do that too. Even though my kids are grown I’m always stressing gratitude and generosity. I don’t think you can have those discussion enough. Keep those discussions going.

  19. AnnMarie says:

    Gratitude is such an important attribute to really grasp and you do a great job of breaking it down for teaching!

  20. Heather Hart says:

    I’m grateful to my husband for all he does for me. He is amazing .
    I’m grateful to God for forgiveness and grace.
    And I’m grateful to my mom for loving me and just being the mom she is.

  21. Summer says:

    You have motivated me to have this conversation with my family!

  22. Amber Lock says:

    I love this! Gratitude is something my son, 10, easily understands but my 8 year old struggles daily! We talk constantly about what it means to be grateful. I’m definitely going to change the conversation and focus not only on what but who! Thanks for this!

  23. Brittany says:

    You hit the nail on the head with this article Christina. I started discussing gratitude with my children, but I haven’t followed through the way I would like. Thank you for this reminder that gratitude must be taught.

  24. Sarah says:

    I’m grateful for my husband, my health, and the ability to run the business of my dreams from my home office! Thank you for this reminder to be constantly on the lookout for things to be grateful for!

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