How To Raise a Grateful Child


We live in challenging times — more so when it comes to parenting. Of course, we want the best for our children and in the process, end up overindulging them. This can have long term consequences — and not of the good kind.

Sadly, childhood overindulgence leads to a sense of psychological entitlement. When parents over-nurture children by doing things that their children ought to be doing for themselves, are too lenient, have no rules, children assume they are entitled to whatever they want. They get away with skipping chores and more freedom than they know what to do with.

And when these children grow up, their relationships suffer. They are aggressive towards those who criticize them. In romantic relationships, they are less loyal and have a problem seeing things from their partner’s perspective.

What is the solution?

Good news! The attitude of gratitude can be taught. Gratitude is learned gradually over the years. Usually children below 6 years of age say thanks only when prompted. The habit develops as they grow older and becomes spontaneous between the ages of 7 and 10.

David Bredehoft, one of the authors of How much is too much: Raising Likeable, Responsible, Respectful Children–from Toddlers to Teens–in an Age of Overindulgence remarks that entitlement and gratitude are two sides of the same coin.

On one side we have entitlement, the belief that one is inherently deserving of privileges or special treatment and on the other side, gratitude: a feeling of thanks and appreciation.

When I read this superb book, which is about overindulgence and how it affects children, and later surfaces as problems during adulthood — I had to reflect: how well am I doing my job as a parent? Have I raised a grateful child?

I think I am a work in progress and and so is my son.

So, while teaching children to say thank you, here are twelve suggestions that we, as parents, can use to raise a grateful child.

1. Walk the Grateful Talk

We know that children see, children do. Parents are children’s first role models. To raise a grateful child, you must be a grateful role model. Use every chance you get to show by example. Remember to be authentic — children have this uncanny way of seeing through you.

2. Resist Overindulging Your Children

Not easy in this day and age — thank you, Internet! Children are also experts at extracting what they want — and make it very hard to refuse them. But learn to say no and resist buying everything your child wants. Don’t over-nurture them. Set firm rules with reasonable consequences. Give them chores and teach them that everyone must contribute to the family. Be strict about this without feeling guilty.

My Mom used the iron hand in velvet glove method. She showered me with love, but did not indulge me when it came to life lessons. And I am eternally grateful to her for it.

3. Teach Them to Say “Thank You”

Almost every parent teaches her child to say Thank you from the moment the child recognizes people. It is best to teach this from a young age and continue until they say it without being nudged. This must become a habit. And it goes without saying that they must mean it when they say thank you. Discourage that fake thank you when they don’t like something. Lip service is not a nice thing at any age!

4. Keep On Keeping on until They Do

If there’s one thing in a parent’s life, it is this: they can tell their children to do something millions of times. This is meaningful only when the child actually listens.

Habits are like that. They need constant reminders. When teaching children to say thank you or any other habit, it is necessary to constantly encourage, remind and nudge millions of times. Just telling them once or twice and expecting them to do it doesn’t work.

According to a 2009 study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, it takes 18 to 254 days for a person to form a new habit. The study also concluded that, on average, it takes 66 days for a new behavior to become automatic.

Imagine what it must be for a 4- or 5-year-old! What about a teenager? Whoa. That’s a long road but one that is well worth traveling!

5. Teach Respect and Politeness

Manners are non-negotiable. Insist on them. If your child is disrespectful or impolite, pull her up immediately and suggest a “rewind”. Do it right away or it will cost them in the long run. Nobody likes kids who are rude and disrespectful. Encourage them to say please, thank you, excuse me. Well-behaved and polite goes a long way.

6. Insist They Write Thank You Notes

To this day, I write thank you notes — by hand — to my folks and friends. My Mom insisted that I did and it’s now a habit. Get your children started on this habit of handwriting thank-yous. Just one sentence per grade. Then send those notes out right away.

For the very young ones, have them draw a picture with crayons. The recipient, perhaps a grandparent, will treasure it. As they get older, let them continue doing this. Keep thank you cards ready to use. Perhaps you can make a family rule about gifts to grandchildren, nephews, nieces, etc. = that is — No, thank you. No more gifts.

My son still thanks me for everything — from food to anything I do for him.

7. Encourage Them to Keep a Gratitude Journal

The power of gratitude is in writing it down. Make this a habit. Write down what you are grateful for and encourage your children to do the same. Be a role model and share what you wrote with them. Encourage them to maintain a gratitude journal. Watch their lives change!

When my son was very young, I started him off on keeping a Happiness Jar. Every time he felt happy about something, he would write it on a note and drop it in the jar. We joined him in this wonderful activity. Just seeing the jar filling up was a mood-upper. And when we read a handful of the notes once a week, it was pure joy!

The next time your child is feeling low

Have them list three things they are grateful for, right now. This moment. Insist on it. They’ll find it hard to stay focused on the negative when the positive is there on paper for them to see.

8. Celebrate on a Daily Basis

Make it a point to celebrate everyday things. It sets a positive tone. Do it when you sit down for dinner or when all of you sit together and catch up. Have each family member — both children and adults — share something nice, big or small —that they experienced that day. Enjoy the feeling. And make it a daily habit.

9. Urge Them to Help without Being Asked

Isn’t it wonderful when children help voluntarily, without being asked? How to make this happen? First, share your expectation with your children. “Will you take the trash out when you notice it is full without being told to take it out?” And when your child does it, thank her. Say, “thank you for taking out the trash. I really appreciate your help. You make my life so much easier.” It’s an easy approach. My folks were experts at it. In our joint family of seven, every one was always encouraging, always lovingly getting things done. Always appreciating!

10. Let Them Learn to Pay All or Part of the Way

Encourage your children to occasionally pay for all or part of something. This is a valuable lesson. It teaches them to earn what they want. I remember, during my childhood, when I wanted something and I was too young to go to work but old enough to teach children in the lower grades, I gave tuitions. I had two students and taught them Math and English. With the money I earned I not only bought what I wanted, but also contributed to the household expenses. I took responsibility for three things on the grocery list. We weren’t very well off at the time and this was much appreciated. I am grateful my Mom taught me this valuable lesson.

11. Encourage Them to Give Back

Encourage your children to give back, to pay it forward. Suggest donating to a cause or charity — it can be as simple as toys and books they no longer use. I fondly remember the first time my son received a cash prize for academic performance. When I asked him what he wanted to do with it, he took a photo of it and then said that he would like to donate it to the welfare home we support regularly, as they needed to build medical funds. Subsequently, he has received three more cash awards, all of which went to charity. Yes, proud mama!

12. Inspire Your Child to Volunteer

Show your children, by example, how to volunteer. Identify causes and organizations you want to be associated with. Then go donate your time. Perhaps at a home for the elderly where they yearn for company. Or a children’s welfare home where you teach them, donate your skills; or serve food to the homeless. Be your children’s role model.

Each time I visited the welfare home near our place, I would take my son along. I know that he came back home a different person. Of course there were questions in his head — and we answered them — and made him understand that not everyone has the privilege of a comfortable home or a family in this world. And that those who did, must do their best for those who don’t. When we do it, it is enriching. We end up feeling grateful for what we have.

Teaching our children gratitude is one of the best gifts we can give them. It helps them grow into caring, loving adults.

Gratitude is Like Planting a Garden
Gratitude, just like a garden, starts with tilling the soil,
planting the seed, watering, fertilizing, and nurturing.
Then step back and watch as loveliness
grows all around you.

A version of this post appeared on Vidya Sury, Collecting Smiles

Previously Published on medium


Join The Good Men Project as a Premium Member today.

All Premium Members get to view The Good Men Project with NO ADS.

A $50 annual membership gives you an all access pass. You can be a part of every call, group, class and community.
A $25 annual membership gives you access to one class, one Social Interest group and our online communities.
A $12 annual membership gives you access to our Friday calls with the publisher, our online community.

Register New Account

Log in if you wish to renew an existing subscription.

Choose your subscription level

By completing this registration form, you are also agreeing to our Terms of Service which can be found here.



Need more info? A complete list of benefits is here.

Photo credit: by 吴 迪 on Unsplash

The post How To Raise a Grateful Child appeared first on The Good Men Project.