Parenting Tips: How to Teach Kids to be Grateful, Not Greedy

In a me-first world, how do you cultivate a sense of gratitude in your kids? Try these six rituals    

Credit: Flickr/seandreilinger

Teaching kids to be grateful is easier when there’s ice cream involved

Do your kids refuse to say thank you unless threatened with punishment? Teach them gratitude through ritual

If your kids roll their eyes when you suggest they improve their attitude, and assert that anything from a longish walk to a broken shoelace is the end of the world, take heart. You’re not alone, and there are alternatives.

Gratitude Rituals for Kids

Cultivate gratitude. Gratitude isn’t something kids feel spontaneously: it has to be taught. So ask kids regularly – not just at Thanksgiving – to list the things for which they’re grateful. (Adults should participate, too.)

Consider faith. Without being an orthodox Muslim, Christian, or Jew, you can still thank a higher power for the many blessings life gives. Where to start? A dinnertime grace can become a ritual, undertaken in turn by each family member.

One in, one out. One way to make sure kids consider material possessions carefully is to ask them to discard something – ethically, of course – for each new thing they get. This may not inspire immediate gratitude, but it will allow them to decide how important things are, and put the brakes on acquisition for its own sake. 

Model thanks. Surprise your kids doing something good, and formally thank them for it. Make sure they – and you – send thank-you notes or call expressing appreciation for presents. And insist even the youngest say please before you attend to their requests. 

Acknowledge acts, too. Things are good, but it’s also worthwhile to discuss with your kids the non-material offerings from those around us, like the teacher who offers extra help or the friend’s mom who invites Junior on their family vacation. 

Be charitable. Ask older kids to decide what part of their allowance will go to the worthy cause of their choice. Allow them to participate in deciding on the recipient of the yearly family donation. Take them along when you donate unwanted items. And share with them why you give, and where. 

Want more parenting tips? Find out how to get your kids to do chores, and what your childfree friends shouldn’t say. Feeling graceless, not grateful? Check out inspiring blogs like 1000 Awesome Things (now a book, too).