How To Raise A Grateful Child

In the materialistic world of today, raising a grateful child is a huge challenge. Here's how to teach your child to be grateful for all the blessings she has received.

By Dr Priscilla J S Selvaraj

How To Raise A Grateful Child

 Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others  Cicero

‘My child is so selfish and greedy. He hardly offers words of gratitude to anyone. I wonder how I can teach him to be grateful and thankful,’ says Mita (name changed), a mother of a 10-year-old. 

Many children of today are a privileged lot – they do not experience want of any kind. They get all that they ask for. As a result, they have become materialistic and do not know how to express gratitude. Against this background, teaching them gratefulness is a tough task for parents. If you’re wondering, like Mita, how to raise a grateful child, here are some ways to do so. But, before that, let's take a look at what a grateful heart can do to you.

Benefits of gratitude

Practising gratitude has many benefits ranging from ensuring good physical health to improving mental health. An article, 'How gratitude changes you and your brain', by Joel Wong and Joshua Brown, published in the Greater Good Magazine in June 2017, mentions that showing gratitude has lasting positive effects on the brain. 

Here are a few benefits of gratitude that your child will enjoy by learning to express thanks and appreciation –

  • Gives happiness
  • Teaches optimism
  • Boosts self-esteem
  • Strengthens relationships
  • Improves emotional health
  • Grants satisfaction
  • Ensures overall well-being
  • Eliminates materialism

7 ways to teach gratitude to your child

  1. Being grateful to God: ‘Count your blessings; name them one by one. Count your blessings; see what God has done…!’ goes the old song. Quite true! Teach your child to be grateful to God for all the blessings that she has received in her life. A grateful heart will ensure there is no self-pity, bitterness, greed or other negative sentiments. On the contrary, it will ensure your child is filled with contentment and happiness. Engaging in community projects for the less-privileged or family visits to orphanages and old age homes can also make your child realise how blessed she is and be thankful for it. At the same time, it will also make her reach out to those in need and be of help to them. These are the very first steps in teaching gratitude to your child.
  2. Expressing gratitude: Get your child into the habit of saying ‘Thank you’ whenever someone does him a good turn or says something nice to him. This simple act of thanking will go a long way in instilling gratitude in your child. Let him utter this word of thanks meaningfully right from the bottom of his heart and not in a superficial manner. Also, teach him to thank everyone involved in rendering some service or the other – the milkman, postman, sanitary worker, janitor, cashier, shop vendor, housemaid, and so on. You can even encourage your child to write ‘Thank you’ notes or cards. A written note will always have a better impact than an oral one.
  3. Practising gratitude: Be a model and practise thankfulness in everyday life – to God, to family members, to friends, to relatives, to neighbours, and to those who render services to you. Be natural about it. Let your child observe your attitude of being grateful and learn from it. It is always better to practise than preach.
  4. Reducing the impact of materialism: Do not be an over-indulgent parent conceding to all your child’s demands. Learn when to say ‘No’. Make your child realise that he will not get all that he wants every time. Let him be aware that there are so many people without even the basic comforts of life. And, let him also learn to appreciate what he has rather than whine about what he does not. Especially, in the context of materialism, it is teaching gratitude to your child is very important.
  5. Maintaining a gratitude diary: Teach your child to maintain a diary wherein she can note down whatever she needs to be thankful for. Let her do this on a daily basis. Going through the list once a week will reveal how many good things she has received. Once she sees that she will be surprised that what she has is more than what she doesn’t have. Apart from teaching gratitude this will also teach her contentment.
  6. Setting up a family gratitude jar: Place a jar on a table in your drawing room along with a tray of coloured pebbles next to it. Each family member should choose a pebble of one colour. Every time the person extends thanks to someone, he or she should drop a pebble into the jar. At the end of the month, count the number of pebbles each person has put into the jar. That would be the ‘Thanksgiving quotient’ for that person. Compete with each other to be more and more thankful so that you can up the quotient month after month. 
  7. Showing gratitude to parents: Children often take parents for granted; therefore, they fail to realise how much care and love goes into each little act of theirs. This is especially true in the teen years. At times, parents even deny themselves their own comforts or 'me' time to ensure their children are taken care of well. Teach your child to be grateful when her parents go out of the way to make sure her needs are taken care of. Teaching gratitude begins at home after all.

Words of gratitude

Here are some words and phrases to express thankfulness; get your child to practise saying them–

  • 'Thanks a lot.'
  • 'I am so grateful to you.'
  • 'I am thankful for...'
  • 'I cannot thank you enough...'
  • 'What a blessing you've been to me!'
  • 'I have no words to express my gratitude.'
  • 'My sincere thanks.'
  • 'I appreciate your help.'
  • 'I'll be forever grateful to you.'
  • 'That was very kind of you.'
  • 'I really owe you one.'
  • 'I truly appreciate what you've done for me.'
  • 'Many thanks for...'
  • 'Thanks a lot / Thanks a ton / Thanks a bunch!'
  • 'I wonder what I would have done without you. That was a great help!'

Gratitude quotes

And now, for some gratefulness quotes to inspire your child and make her express appreciation –

  • “I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.”— G K Chesterton
  • “Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” ― Marcel Proust 
  • “Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson 
  • “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." ― The Bible
  • “Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer." ― Maya Angelou
  • “Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has plenty; not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.” — Charles Dickens
  • "Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings." — William Arthur Ward
  • "Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions. The more you express gratitude for what you have, the more likely you will have even more to express gratitude for." — Zig Ziglar
  • "At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us." — Albert Schweitzer
  • “Gratitude is the sign of noble souls.” – Aesop
  • “Thou who hast given so much to me, give me one more thing… a grateful heart!” – George Herbert
  • "Pride slays thanksgiving, but a humble mind is the soil out of which thanks naturally grow. A proud man is seldom a grateful man, for he never thinks he gets as much as he deserves." – Henry Ward Beecher

So, let our children learn to thank and be grateful, and let them begin by being grateful to God as the good old rhyme goes –

               Thank you God for the world so sweet,
               Thank you God for the food we eat,
               Thank you God for the birds that sing,
               Thank you God for everything. 

About the author:

Written by Dr Priscilla J S Selvaraj, PhD (Eng & Edu) on 31 August 2017 and updated on 22 June 2020.

The author is an educationist, language specialist and writer. In a career spanning over two decades, she has taught from preschool to B-School and trained teachers, master trainers and software professionals. She is also a former member of curriculum and syllabus development committees (Govt of Tamil Nadu). Her passion for the written word matches her enthusiasm for entertaining little kids by breaking out into nursery rhymes.

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