Teaching Kids to be Grateful

Everyone loves a grateful child. I would also go so far as to say that most of us would rather avoid the ungrateful ones. A child that has manners and appreciates what they have and receive is on a rocketship for success. Let me explain. Not every child is going to be successful. However, those that show their appreciation are twice as likely to have supporters than the ingrates and spoiled brats. Are we on the same page?

Being thankful and expressing it is a “no-lose” art form. If you are a dad, think about how a grateful child makes you react. You want or wish to do more for them. For those that don’t express their appreciation and just take, we are far less to “desire” to give them more. Depending on your convictions or personality, you may or may not make manifest these thoughts. 

Being grateful is a lifestyle. There are so many benefits that directly affect you as a result. Grateful individuals are people who live with their eyes open. They also have a more grounded and honest since of self. Let me address these qualities first. Living with your eyes open means that you can see the blessings around you, no matter how small. It also means that you find blessing more than others. “Look and you will find it – what is unsought will go undetected” – Sophocles. Contrary to blessings, there are those that always find disappointment. It is like they always find something wrong no matter what they encounter or are offered. I think we all know someone like this. 

The second point, having an honest sense of self, acknowledges our strengths and weaknesses. In view of our inabilities or struggles, we are able to avoid the curse of self-entitlement. When I was a kid, there were bullies. Not that they don’t exist today, but bullying has been socially condemned. Kids and teens these days tend to struggle with self-entitlement. At least they do from this writer’s viewpoint. I don’t think it is because they “really” think they are better. I think it is what they portray in their insecurities. In the book, The Price of Privilege, by Dr. Madeline Levine, She discusses the depression of the so-called privileged youth. One element was a lack of “finding oneself”. For these kids to think they are better than others, yet have no clue of who they are would not add up.

Teaching a child to be grateful is like most lessons, the sooner the better. Showing them, and yes requiring them to express gratitude develops a healthy habit. Once they learn the benefits of such behavior, they are more likely to repeat it. So what are the benefits? You develop a child that looks for blessings and the opportunity to express gratitude. Your child becomes someone that adults like having around. You will look like a much better parent when your child shows appreciation. People will want to do for your child over others that do not show gratitude. Finally, it pays to be thankful.

Let me expand on my last point a bit further. This is something that I have always told my kids and my students. We should live in gratitude just because it is a healthy and more pleasant way to live. It is the right thing to do. However, I have challenged both my kids and students. “Do you want to be chosen? Would you like to receive grace and mercy? How about second chances and more opportunities, would you like that? Thank you pays. It is smart in relationships and the business world. I wanted to prove it to them. During several years of my time in Christian education, I helped with fundraising. I invited some of my students and my kids to an event that I started before the Christmas break called the “Thank-a-thon”. The school wanted to have a final effort to raise funds. Originally, they would call and ask for pledges. When it was given to me, I raised more money than ever before. How did I do it? I asked for nothing and just said thank you.

I achieved this task by getting a list of the donors for that specific year. I chose about 8 well-spoken students, 8 phone lines, and gave them a simple script. “Hi, Mrs. Smith. This is (student’s name). I’m a junior (or whatever grade) at the Academy. We are just calling tonight to say thank you for all you have done for the academy and we wanted to wish you a very Merry Christmas. Now, to make a long story short several things happened EVERY year. 1. The kids had a blast. 2. Many of the people on the other end of the call would engage them in very pleasant conversation. 3. Some elderly people would actually cry. 4. After the holiday break, we would come back to school to a new stack of checks made out to the school as a result. When kids saw all the envelopes upon our return, they were amazed. “Thank you pays”, I said.

The goal is not to teach your children to manipulate people but to understand that it feels go to be appreciated. Humans will usually repeat actions that result in a pleasant experience. Do you want your children to look for blessings in life, to appreciate others, and to benefit from a healthy lifestyle? Stress to them the importance of thank you, the win-win way to live. Give your children the tools to achieve and be the best dad possible.

Deacon