Written by Doctor G

Teaching Gratitude

I care very much about having an “attitude of gratitude.” How can I teach this to my young son? It seems like kids today are not grateful for anything!

Adam, in Greensboro, NC

A: I was just thinking about this recently myself. There are some great posts going around the Twittersphere that are lists of gratitude, many from parent bloggers. As I’m appreciating the exact attitude of gratitude this dad cares about, I’m pondering what you’re pondering – how can we impart this outlook to our kids?

The first answer is of course the usual one: we have to model the behaviors we really want our kids to breathe in. Which stinks, right? It would be much easier to just TELL them to exercise, eat right, visit sick people, have a good work ethic, be polite, drive without texting, ignore celebrity gossip…

The second answer is build the habit. I believe that, especially with manners, it’s ok for kids to fake it til they make it. This means that they can learn to say “please” and “thank you” and “I’m sorry” even if they aren’t really feeling it. This is not the popular opinion on the topic; many parents believe that teaching children to parrot polite phrases that they don’t mean teaches them to be insincere. A larger question in the grand scheme of things, suffice it to say that kids will develop habits one way or the other. And most parents would agree that a habit of politeness beats a habit of thoughtlessness and entitlement any day!

How do you build the habit of gratitude? Opportunity, tools and reinforcement.

Opportunity: When our kids ask for something and get it, we teach them to say “Thank you!” often as the last hurdle before we actually hand over the popsicle. At the end of a meal is a natural time to thank whoever made it possible. How about in the car on the way to or from a fun activity? “Thanks for taking us to the park!” Or it’s possible to make this a part of the bedtime ritual. If yours is a family that prays at bedtime, that is a great opportunity for gratitude. Bedtime reflection does not need to be formalized as prayer – most of us naturally review our day as we lay in bed. Take the chance to mention some gratitude and your kids will too (eventually!).

Tools: There are lots of ways to express thankfulness. From formal speeches and prayers at Thanksgiving, to a quick hug or smile, the more of a “gratitude vocabulary” we give our kids the more they will be able to fit it in to different situations. My sons (and husband) seem to thank each other and show appreciation by shoving or lightly punching each other at times. I don’t ask…

Reinforcement: Wow it feels good to hear thanks. If someone’s gratitude inspires you to do something else for them, point it out. Not as a reward per se, but as the natural order of things. If your child remembers to thank the parent of their playdate for having them over and it elicits a smile or a follow up invitation, mention that on the way home. Also, thank them for stuff, big and small.

The third answer is the hardest for me. Slow down and smell the roses. That is the most certain road to feeling grateful for what is.

Stress to Resilience for Youth, Free Download Cover Mockup

Learn to Help Your Teen Build Resilience​

Help the teen in your life walk through adversity with strength. Download this free PDF to learn the three steps to go from stress to resilience for youth!

3 thoughts on “Teaching Gratitude”

  1. Some sound advice there, Dr. G. It’s not always easy to teach children gratitude, as we sometimes forget to be grateful ourselves. Therefore, slowing down to smell the roses? A perfect way to learn, reinforce and practice gratitude.

  2. Great advice! I understand that sometimes it’s easier to just let things slide instead of enforcing manners and thank yous, but I can honestly say that my kids picked it up naturally, not only because we would coax them to say it, but they hear US say it all the time. No one in our house asks for something without saying please or thank you. They see mom and dad doing it, so it just becomes a natural part of their vocabulary, giving me a sweet, “Thank you Mommy!” when I had them their milk. So rewarding.

    When I started Attitude of Gratitude I happened upon another blogger who posts her family’s weekly gratitude journal each Sunday too. Her kids are a bit older, so she gets them in on it, and it’s so cool.

    Thanks for the link back!

  3. One heartfelt “thank you” can make even a night of cleaning up after a sick kid all worthwhile. It is amazing the power that gratitude has to change our outlook, whether we are giving it or receiving it.

Comments are closed.


How Can I Help?

A Little Bit About Dr. G

A widely recognized media personality, Dr. G is your go-to expert on resilience. Countless broadcast outlets rely on her contagious humor and illuminating stories to tackle tough topics. She is regularly seen on TV, as well as interviewed for print and digital outlets. Here, she’s answering your questions. Search for the answers you need, or ask her your question now!
Scroll to Top

A Newsletter All About Resilience

Sign up below to join Dr. G’s newsletter and discover how to ‘Do Stress Better’ and tap into the resilience that already exists inside of you.

Ask Dr. G Your Question

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Book Dr. G

Let Dr. G know you’re interested in having her speak. If you’d like to send her a message click here.

  • MM slash DD slash YYYY
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

After pressing submit your forms will be sent to Dr. G and her team. You can expect a response within 1 business day.

Media Inquiry Form

  • MM slash DD slash YYYY
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Insights to Transform Your Stress Into Your Resilience​

Please let us know where to send the Stress to Resilience guide and we’ll send it quick!