Fostering an Attitude of Gratitude in our Kids

November 4, 2020

By Elizabeth Griffin

As Thanksgiving approaches, we often begin to think about gratitude. Many of us spend part of our Thanksgiving dinner going around the table and, one by one, saying what we are grateful for. If you have kids, this can be fun and sometimes humorous, or it can involve a lot of eye rolling—usually depending on their age. But no matter how old they—or we—are, it’s important for all of us to foster a grateful heart.

In a Berkeley research study about gratitude, grateful people reported better sleep, less fatigue, less depression, and more confidence in their ability to care for themselves. They also had lower levels of systemic inflammation in their bodies. Those are great reasons to be grateful!

Having an Attitude of Gratitude makes you more fun to be around, directly battles anxiety (MRIs have shown that gratitude and anxiety cannot coexist in the brain), and pleases the Lord. No wonder God commands us to be thankful in all circumstances!

How do we cultivate gratitude in our kids? Here are 7 tips, and I bet you can come up with a lot more.

7 Ways to Foster an Attitude of Gratitude in Your Kids

  1. Make sure that YOU have an attitude of gratitude! Your kids will follow your lead. Be quick to express your gratitude out loud and in the moment for blessings in your life and even ordinary things that happen throughout the day.
  2. Practice thanking God for things even when life it hard—look for the good. Don’t see any? Thank God for who He is and express your trust in Him to use the hard things to make you grow and for His glory. (COVID gives us many opportunities for this, doesn’t it?)
  3. Include gratitude as a regular part of prayer time with your kids/family each day. Try starting prayer by having them list what they are thankful for. Morning prayer can include looking ahead and thanking God for what you are going to do that day, and bedtime can include looking back over the day and thanking God for what happened.
  4. This month, make a conscious effort to highlight the things you are grateful for by including your kids (up through elementary school) in a fun activity:
    • Have each child cut out shapes of leaves, feathers, their handprint, or an object of their choice.
    • Cut out and tape/tack the appropriate background for these shapes on your wall—a large and leafless paper tree, a paper turkey without feathers, or a frame to fill with handprints.
    • Each day have your kids write something they are thankful for on one of the cutouts and tape it to the wall—leaves on the tree, feathers on the turkey, you get the idea.
    • At the end of the month you will have a collage of gratitude.
  5. Give each of your kids (middle elementary school and older) a journal for them to write or draw three things they are grateful for every morning. Have everybody share their list at lunch or dinner each day.
  6. Say “Thank you” regularly at your house. It’s easy to do and a good reminder for all of us that we are not “entitled.” It makes repetitive chores easier when you know others appreciate you for doing them. Start by thanking your spouse for what he or she does, and don’t be afraid to give direct training in this skill for your kids.
  7. Be sure to thank store clerks and teachers, and have your kids do that same. It’s important for them to know that everybody deserves our attention and appreciation.

Proverbs 17:22 says “A joyful heart is good medicine.” Outward gratitude feeds inner joy. God has this gift for you and for your kids. Open it up today and teach your kids to do the same. It will change their lives, and your family!

Elizabeth Griffin is Senior Writer for CRISTA Ministries.