5 Easy Ways to Show Kids How to be Thankful


By: , – Hillary Copsey
  :  17 comments   :  19,573 Views

Gratitude can be a difficult thing to teach but a vital lesson for children to learn.
Psychologists have found that people who regularly say thank you and remember to be grateful for things in their life tend to be happier and more optimistic. They can't say there is definitely a cause-and-effect relationship between gratitude and happiness, but counting your blessings certainly doesn't hurt.
Teaching gratitude is something that should happen all year; however, the holiday season quickly can prove whether the lessons have been a success. The good cheer of the holidays can disappear in a whirl of greed and gluttony. That's true for all of us, young and old, but it's especially apparent when children, the prime gift recipients of the season, act ungratefully.
No one wants to have the kid refusing to thank Aunt Betty for the hand-made sweater – or even worse, declaring it ugly. Yes, we want children to be truly grateful in their hearts, but let's face it, we also want to avoid unpleasant scenes. Gratitude and politeness go hand-in-hand. 
Here are easy some ways to teach and show gratitude all year, and especially at the holiday season.
Practice daily gratitude.
Remember to say please and thank you. Thank the people who fix you supper. Be kind and generous to servers at restaurants or cashiers in stores. Before bed, list the things that made your day better either silently or with your kids before they go to sleep.
Give before you receive.
Before the holidays, we go through the toys and pick some to donate to charity. My oldest, at nearly 5, truly is able to help with this task, though after each boy has identified one or two toys in good condition to give, I send them outside to play and finish up the purge on my own. In addition to donating gently-used toys, each year I take the boys shopping for one new to donate to Toys for Tots or a similar local charity. I keep change for the boys to drop into Salvation Army buckets.
Always, always say thank you.
Even the smallest children can say thank you – for anything they receive, whether it's a sample at the grocery store or a birthday gift. Even if they don't quite understand what it means, they can get in the habit of saying it. As they get older, you can teach them to mean it. If you can't thank someone in person for a gift, sit down the next day and write a thank-you note, then send it. If the child is too small to write, have her draw a picture and ask her questions about the gift, writing down the answers.
Make gift-giving exciting.
Let the kids pick out gifts for each other on birthdays and holidays and help pick out gifts for Mom, Dad or other relatives. Give them a bit of money and let them handle the transactions on their own. Make it a “date” with Momma or Daddy. Better yet, have them make a gift. Make it a family event with snacks and drinks. Have them help wrap things up and encourage them to keep it secret.
Remember those less-fortunate.
It's a cliché to tell a whining child refusing to eat about starving children in China – but it's not necessarily a bad idea. I find its best, though, to keep the lesson closer to home. About 15 percent of American households aren't sure how they'll pay for their meals, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In my own county, that number is closer to 30 percent, and I tell my kids that there are children, probably on our street, who might not get supper. I tell them this when they're whining about having to wait 15 minutes for dinner, but also when we gather canned goods for a food drive or when I write a check to the local food pantry. Don't scare your child, but don't hide the facts and enlist them in helping people.
Hillary Copsey is a newspaper features editor in Florida with experience writing about everything from population trends to health-care issues. As the mother of two boys, she also is versed in searching for daycares, cooking healthy dinners on the fly and playing with trucks. She co-writes the blog Not raising brats. She writes about parenting for dailySpark and BabyFit.com.

Click here to to redeem your SparkPoints
  You will earn 5 SparkPoints
Got a story idea? Give us a shout!
NEXT ENTRY >   Food Fight: Agave vs. Honey


  • 17
    One of my siblings brought this verse home from school many years ago:
    Please, thank you, and excuse me
    Are the nicest things to say
    To Mother and to Father
    For what they do each day.

    (I think there was more to it, but those 4 lines we always remembered.) - 11/23/2016   8:22:37 PM
  • 16
    My Granny taught me very early on to always say thank you for ANYTHING that someone gives me and I make this a practice everyday. Thanks for the remainder - 11/22/2016   8:39:45 AM
  • 15
    I sent my little nephew $100 along with his presents. He was instructed to use it in the following manner:

    $25 = He may buy an additional toy for himself
    $50 = Gifts for family and friends
    $25 = A charity of his choice like Toys for Tots or House of Hope, etc. - 12/12/2012   9:39:49 AM
  • 14
    I sent this article to my 70 y/o sister raising 3 GGrandkids...ALL with ADHD & ODD diagnoses, and everything BUT grateful for much of anything she does for them. I hope it will prove to be *helpful*...but, I won't hold my breath!

    I also posted it on my Facebook page...in case my friends can find it helpful. - 12/9/2012   1:55:04 PM
  • 13
    Political correctness is part of this whole mindset that is part and parcel of this whole thing of no manners. Its not OK to discipline kids because you " might damage their self esteem". - 12/6/2012   9:07:20 PM
  • PSALM314
    For me, I grew up in a Protestant Christian home on a farm in Grand Ledge Michigan. And we always said "Ma'am, and "Sir" "Thank-you and No-Thank-you and Please" and so on. But some adults just see past it as "well they should hold the door for me,or they should let me go first,"etc. We live in a Babylonian World.and our children our only future, and we need to treat them with respect, the same respect that we want from them. So whenever I see a child(My husband and I are unable to have any.) I give them a smile or a wave and even, a thank-you. - 12/6/2012   8:02:58 PM
  • 11
    Something that really didn't get emphasized nearly as much as I would have liked:

    Teaching children gratitude does not start with them. It starts with us. "Practice daily gratitude" isn't just about making our children say "Thank you". In fact, if we make a regular practice of thanking our children for things done well, they not only learn gratitude from example but they feel more loved and appreciated rather than ordered around. - 12/6/2012   4:42:25 PM
  • 10
    ...however, my teen shared yesterday that at church he can stand and hold the door for people, and maybe 1 out of 30 bother to look at him and say "thank you". Not a very good presentation for a teen. I was sorry to hear him share that.
    Let's not presume on the age of those needing to remember to say "thank you" to others for good deeds done! - 12/6/2012   4:18:32 PM
  • 9
    Thank you for this. I had been debating doing charitable contributions on behalf of some of my gift recipients this year, and this article pushed me over the edge (just donated to help buy a sheep and a goat for poor families through Heifer International!). I appreciated the reminder that we need to pass along skills for gratitude, too. - 12/6/2012   10:51:01 AM
  • 8
    Awesome article. - 12/6/2012   9:40:27 AM
  • 7
    What a wonderful article. I, too was raised to always be grateful - to say thank you and please. Also, when children show manners - e.g. they hold a door open for you, say excuse me if they bump into you, say thank you when you hold a door open for them - I like to show my appreciation and let the child know that his or her good manners don't go unnoticed. I like to re-affirm the good manners. - 12/6/2012   9:29:00 AM
  • 6
    We just cleaned out my son's play room and gave all of the gently used toys that he has out grown to his old elementary school's guidance counselor. We had contacted his guidance counselor prior to cleaning out to see if there were any families in our community that wanted or needed help for Christmas. He could not believe the amount of stuff we had that my son was willing to give to help make another child's Christmas a happy one. - 12/6/2012   9:28:11 AM
  • 5
    Please, thank you and excuse me were instilled in me and my siblings from a young age. It's basic manners, treat people as you would like to be treated, it seems to be lacking a bit these days. Simple things like opening the door and saying thank you when somebody does the same for you should be as natural as breathing. - 12/6/2012   3:44:07 AM
  • 4
    We have always tried to teach our kids to care about others. It surprises me how many kids don't care about others. In my Sunday school class we have collected money for different projects over the years. It isn't required that eveyone participate in every project, and I know/understand that not everyone has extra money, but there are some families who have never participated. Even a penny or two is something. - 12/5/2012   9:28:36 PM
  • 3
    CHRIS3874, what on earth does being political correct have to do with being ungrateful? Last I checked, being sensitive to the needs/desires of minorities makes you a MORE compassionate person, not less. - 12/5/2012   9:21:30 PM
  • 2
    It seems manners have gone the same way as other practices of our youth, the product of a politically correct ,me-first, there are no consequences society. - 12/5/2012   8:50:07 PM
  • 1
    What a great reminder to teach kid old fashioned values of gratitude. Good manners are still important in this era where people can be so selfish and self-centered. - 12/5/2012   6:37:48 PM

Please Log In To Leave A Comment:    Log in now ›


Close email sign up
Our best articles, delivered Join the millions of people already subscribed Get a weekly summary of our diet and fitness advice We will never sell, rent or redistribute your email address.

Magic Link Sent!

A magic link was sent to Click on that link to login. The link is only good for 24 hours.