As many parents are coming to realize, we are our children’s constant teachers. From birth throughout life, we are teaching by example those values which we hold dear. As children grow into their own independent lives, the virtue of gratitude becomes increasingly more important. Teaching children gratitude at an elementary level gives them greater self-esteem, more assurance and encouragement, and increases their belief that every problem has a solution when looked at in a different way.

Gratitude: the state of being thankful

Remembering that children learn as much by observing as they do participating, it becomes imperative for us to model the virtue of gratitude.

Teaching Children Gratitude at Home

  1. Make the word gratitude the “word of the month” by posting it on the refrigerator and using it as many times throughout the day as possible. It will become a game to see how many different contexts the word can be used in as well as the feeling of well being that accompanies the discovery.
  2. During dinner conversation, ask each person present to share something they are grateful for during their day and how the gratitude makes them feel.
  3. Teach children to send thank you notes for gifts and thoughtful gestures by doing the same. Show them the thank you note you sent to a friend, send them a thank/congratulations/proud of you note in the mail or leave them a letter of appreciation “just because.” Children love to receive these and will cherish each word.
  4. When whining or complaining or frustrations begin, find something to be grateful for to redirect their attention using “I” messages. Example: “I’m so grateful that you have words to express that frustration.” This shows children that even with adverse feelings, there is something to be grateful for.
  5. When correcting children use the positive, negative, positive model whereby you start with something you appreciate about a behavior, then what behavior you would like to see corrected, then again what you appreciate about a behavior.
  6. The more we show our gratitude to our children, the more our children will show their gratitude to us.


“The Purple Cow”

Reflections on a Mythic Beast,

Who’s Quite Remarkable, at Least 

I never saw a Purple Cow;

I hope never to See One;

But I can Tell you, Anyhow,

I’d rather See than Be One.

Gelett Burgess


Barbara Recommends: Books for Teaching Children Gratitude


Listen to the Power of Positive Parentingaudio course to learn more.