How to Help Your Kids Adopt an Attitude of Gratitude

Jan Lashbrook
Thanksgiving is a great time to pause and reflect with gratefulness, but why not all year round?

“Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever!”—Psalm 107:1 (ESV)

I love it when the field of psychology reinforces a biblical truth, and it happens a lot. “Research has shown that people who experience gratitude have more positive emotions, such as love, joy, and happiness, and fewer negative emotions, like bitterness, envy and resentment,” said The National Association of School Psychologists  (NASP). The NASP communique reveals that thankful people have “increased feelings of connectedness and improved relationships, experience greater satisfaction with school and academic achievement, and even better health than people who don’t take the time to appreciate the good things in their lives.“

In today’s consumer–oriented culture of instant gratification, parents face a real challenge in teaching children to be patient for what they want and thankful for what they get (or don’t get). As a mom of three, I struggled with that same challenge. Both the Bible and the NASP have some simple acts and activities designed to equip parents to raise happy, resilient children who have attitudes of gratitude.

Express gratitude instead of gripes.

It’s human nature to complain about the little irritations during the day, but if we realize that the challenges in our daily routines are really the result of blessings (my never–ending mound of laundry is the fallout of having a healthy, active family to care for), it is easier to feel grateful. Philippians 4:11-13 gives us a great example to follow. Not only does God give us the ability to be content in all circumstances, but He also gives us the strength to do all things through Him. We can transform grumbles in to thanksgiving by saying things like, “Yes, you do need to clean your room today, but aren’t you thankful you have a room to clean and toys to put away?”

Celebrate grateful behavior.

II Corinthians 9:7 reminds us that “God loves a cheerful giver.” Every time your children show gratitude and express thanks, celebrate it by giving them a hug and letting them know how much you appreciate their thankful spirit. We can reinforce their grateful heart by telling them things such as, “It was very thoughtful of you to thank your sister for letting you take the first turn on the swing.”

Realizing there were children nearby or in other parts of the world who did not have the things our family had made our children more responsive to the needs of others...

Add gratitude to your daily routine.

During Thanksgiving dinner, our family has a tradition of going around the table and expressing the many reasons we are thankful for our family members and God’s grace in our lives. But we really need to express that gratefulness every day. Take time at dinner or on the way to school to share at least one thing for which each person is grateful. Even after a rough school day, starting conversations with gratefulness reinforces positive feelings and connections in the family.

Include your kids in sharing your blessings with others.

When we shopped for toys to fill shoeboxes, sponsored a child overseas, or gathered used toys to give away, we would talk about what a child might need or want that they would not otherwise have if we didn’t give. Realizing there were children nearby or in other parts of the world who did not have the things our family had made our children more responsive to the needs of others and gave them a sense of gratitude for what they had.

By focusing on all that we have to be grateful for, we can use everyday moments to make gratitude and thankfulness a part or our daily life. As a result, Thanksgiving will become more than just another holiday we celebrate in November.


Jan Lashbrook is the Early Childhood Program  Director at Calvary Christian Academy. She and her husband are “empty-nesters,” having raised three children who are all grown and married. Their youngest attended CCA for 12 years, graduating in 2016.
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