Five Tips for More Grateful Kids

boy playing in fall leaves

“Oh, what fun” … queue the holidays. ‘Tis the season to be thankful – right? Yes.

But raise your hand if you’ve ever cringed at the “how do I tackle my kid’s holiday wish list” scenario it invokes! We’re all in, right?

We’re all on board with the holiday tradition of saying what we’re grateful for around the family table, yet we wonder how we’ll get through the “I wants” and “I gotta haves” that the holiday season inevitably brings.

We hope to instill an attitude of gratitude this season – to give thanks for the blessings and wonderful things we have. We’ll talk to our kids about children who go without. About kids who don’t have enough to eat or shoes on their feet or a place to lay their head. And sometimes we see the glimmer of understanding, and then, poof – the spell is broken by the latest, greatest video game or hot new fashion must-have.

Don’t despair. There are some absolutely doable strategies for cutting through the distractions and fostering gratitude and mindfulness in your family, not just through the holidays, but all year round.

Here are 5 things you can do right now to foster an attitude of gratitude:

1. Be generous and vocal about your thanks. Step-one in almost all parenting strategies is to model the behavior we want our kids to adopt. That means stepping up and being even more generous in our own thankfulness.

Don’t miss an opportunity to say thank you. From the cashier and bagger at the grocery store, to the teacher when you’re dropping off your kids, to the nurse at the pediatrician’s office – give thanks and be specific about how that person made a difference for you. Better yet, ask for that person’s supervisor and share your gratitude.

And don’t forget your family members. Give thanks to your kids when they hang up their towels without being asked. And be sure to generously give thanks to your partner and your kids even for the “expected” jobs they do on a daily basis. Everyone wants to feel appreciated.

When your kids see you generously giving thanks, they’ll notice what a difference it makes to the receiver and learn what it feels like to make someone else’s day with that praise. They’ll naturally want to get in on that good feeling and follow suit.

2. Deliberately schedule service. We all have good intentions to bake cookies for the neighbors, stock the local food pantry, or collect donations for the underprivileged… unfortunately, regular life edges out those activities when we let it.

Consider making acts of service a priority in your family. Have a family meeting and let everyone brainstorm ideas for service activities that are near and dear to them. Then, schedule one or two per month – all year long.

When you do, the benefits abound. Your kids will develop a stronger sense of community and connection to service work. They’ll experience the joy that comes from making a difference in someone else’s life. And you’ll feel more connected as a family.

That’s truly something to be grateful for! Serving others is a gift that will hopefully keep them eager to continue giving all year around.

3. Make do with less. It’s easy for kids and adults to get accustomed to the good life. The ease of things. The expectation that all our favorites will be in the lunchbox, or the next new gadget or gizmo will be a given gift.

Unfortunately, that can lead to a life of expectation, and taking our blessings for granted. Try this idea on for size. Once a month, choose something your family can do without for a time. Things like ditching take-out for a week, or going without television for a spell, or walking instead of driving somewhere close. When we “shut off” some of the conveniences, even for a short time, we can all better appreciate what we have.

4. Look for the silver linings. In the greater scheme of things, most of our problems are truly first-world dilemmas, right? Forgot the phone charger, a long line for ice cream, a series of stop lights when you’re running late – none of it is really cause for a meltdown. The next time an unfortunate situation comes up, nip the doom and gloom in the bud by finding the silver lining.

Rained out game? No problem, you have time to do something together now. Missed the bus? You can have a sing-off in the car on the way to school. Be careful not to let the lesson get lost in a sermon. Just recognize that every setback has a silver lining. Your job is to help your children not only find it – but make a regular practice of looking for them.

5. Practice gratitude often. Studies tell us that the most grateful people are the happiest. Bring a regular practice of gratitude into your home by adding a ritual to your daily routine. At dinner, have everyone share one thing they are grateful for that day – or add that practice to your bedtime routine. Or, get a big jar and encourage everyone to jot their “gratitudes” on slips of paper throughout the week and read them aloud together each weekend. Making thankfulness part of your family rituals will help foster a sense of gratitude in your children that they will carry with them throughout their entire lives.

Make this season filled to the brim with positive reinforcement for all the wonderful things you share as a family. From our home to yours – wishing you a magical season ahead, and fond family adventures all year round.

About the Author

Amy McCready
Nationally recognized parenting expert Amy McCready is the Founder of Positive Parenting Solutions and the best selling author of The “Me, Me, Me” Epidemic - A Step-by-Step Guide to Raising Capable, Grateful Kids in an Over-Entitled World and If I Have to Tell You One More Time…The Revolutionary Program That Gets Your Kids to Listen Without Nagging, Reminding or Yelling. As a “recovering yeller” and a Certified Positive Discipline Instructor, Amy is a champion of positive parenting techniques for happier families and well-behaved kids. Amy is a TODAY Show contributor and has been featured on CBS This Morning, CNN, Fox & Friends, MSNBC, Rachael Ray, Steve Harvey & others. In her most important role, she is the proud mom of two amazing young men.