Thankfulness: How to Teach Our Kids Gratitude

Thankfulness. How do we teach our kids to practice gratitude and thankfulness in a world so cluttered with “the me factor? I mean, if your kids are anything like mine, they have already started to think about the holidays. As much as this drives me nuts, I can’t say that I really blame them. The stores are already getting decorations out. My kids have received and intricately combed through the Amazon catalog. It’s everywhere even though the leaves on the trees are just starting to fall.

So, how do we nip this? How do we teach our kids to be thankful when the world around them goes from Halloween to the winter holidays?

How to Teach Our Kids Gratitude

November is not the only time to teach gratitude.

I think it is important to teach gratitude each and every day. Really, to bring it into conversation daily. In a world where the message of more is better, we need to help our kids to be grateful for what they have. It is incredibly difficult because kids are self-centered by nature. One thing we do in our house at bedtime or at the dinner table is for everyone to share what makes them grateful that day. What good things have happened that they are thankful for? By bringing this into conversation on a regular basis, the feeling of gratefulness will become automatic (at least I hope so). 

Put Gratitude Into Practice

In addition to talking about gratitude, we also try to put it into practice. When our kids get gifts for birthdays, Christmas, etc, we insist they write thank-you notes. It takes time, but the message it sends and the joy it brings to the receiver is priceless. It is important to thank those who took the time to think of them. It does not have to be elaborate, but the act of writing notes teaches our kids that it is important to be grateful for what they receive.

Say No

I know, I know. We feel as parents we always say no to so many things. As hard as that is for our kids, and as much as they hate hearing it, it is truly important. If we said yes all of the time, our kids would not appreciate it when we do say yes. 

Ways to Show Thankfulness 

Thankful Pumpkin Craft

There are things we do to show and demonstrate thankfulness. One of them is to create a thankful pumpkin. Every day during the month of November, each of us shares one thing we are thankful for. We then write it on the pumpkin. The goal is to fill the pumpkin by the end of the month. More importantly, it helps our family to visualize what we are thankful for and realize all of the gifts we have received.  

Grateful Tree

Another thing we do is create a grateful tree. We cut out leaf shapes on different fall-colored construction paper. Then, each person writes something they are thankful for on their leaf. The leaves go on our wall in our dining room. This year, I am going to try to laminate the leaves beforehand so we can erase the marker when we are all done and then reuse the leaves next year. 

Teaching gratitude can be incredibly challenging! However, I firmly believe if we can be good role models for teaching thankfulness, our kids will receive this important message.

Some days are extremely hard and you feel like you have missed the boat on something, or that you are somehow screwing your kids up. But then you have days when they just blow you out of the water for something so insightful that they say. My advice to you, our readers, and to myself is to keep fighting the good fight. All of the hard work and values you teach will eventually pay off. I keep telling myself that and do my best to put one foot in front of the other. It will pay off. 

What are some ways you teach thankfulness in your house? 


Brenda is an Iowa native who has lived in the Iowa City area since 2005. She is married to her love, Robert, since 2012. Brenda is an elementary teacher by trade. She spent almost nine years as a stay at home parent but is now back in the classroom spending time with her school kids and being a mom to her own kids. She is the mom of three; Gabe (April, 2013) Maggie (April, 2015), and Julianna (September, 2017). Brenda enjoys being active by running and working out. She also enjoys trying new recipes, volunteering, playing board and card games, and being involved in church. Brenda is an elementary teacher and loves cheering on the Cubs, UNI Panthers, and the Iowa Hawkeyes. It is a busy but beautiful life!


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