How do you teach your kids gratitude? The best tips for avoiding “the gimmies” and getting kids to say thanks?

Written by Christy Whitman November 22, 2012

All children need to be taught what words mean, what emotions feel like, what are concepts, values, manners, and of course appreciation and gratitude are among the most important. We teach our children not just through our words, but through our own emotions, energy, and behaviors. When we are full of gratitude in our own lives they will see this and learn to do it as well. When we say to our children, “Oh, what a nice day it is today. The sun is shining, the birds are singing. The traffic is flowing.” they can look for things to appreciate in their day. My three year old will say, “Oh what a beautiful day.”

Have your kids focus on things to be grateful for during their day. In the Enlightened Kid Program 5-8 we have a book where Hearty Bear shows gratitude for his day. It also asks the children questions, “What do you appreciate in your life?” We need to ask our children these questions so they can start to focus on those things. The more we as parents put this focus on what our children can appreciate they are learning from us. “What a great meal daddy prepared for us. Thank you, Daddy.”

When teaching our children to give thanks and pointing out opportunities to do so, we need to make sure they are not just saying the words, but connecting to the energy of true gratitude and appreciation. We need to show them the difference of, “thank you” with no emotion and, “THANK YOU” full of emotion. Have them look you in the eye, be fully present and feel the words.

Every moment is a teachable moment with our children to teach them gratitude and for them to say, “thank you”. The more consistent we in demonstrating this in our own lives, and reminding of this for them in their lives, the more they will understand and practice the art of appreciation.

When the kids do have the gimmies, it is also a teachable moment to remind them to be grateful for what they do have. When my child says, “We don’t have that truck. We need that truck.” I then remind him of all that he does have. I will show him all the different trucks that he has and it is important to appreciate what he already has instead of focusing on what he doesn’t have. I also explain the concept of abundance and when you are focused on the lack of something (not having a certain toy) it does not feel good. I will ask him, “How do you feel not having this toy?” “Bad”. “How do you feel knowing you have all of these other toys.” “Good”. “Well, then focus on what you have instead of what you don’t have. You can always desire to have something else, and maybe you can have that for Christmas, but for now focus on what you do have.” That always gets them out of the gimmies.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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