How to Instill Gratitude in Children

As parents or caregivers, we often wonder how to instill gratitude in children, or often think about how…
How to Instill Gratitude in Children

As parents or caregivers, we often wonder how to instill gratitude in children, or often think about how we can teach them to be grateful. I remember when I was a child, in order to instill gratitude in me, my parents used to start off with a common phrase “What do you say” whenever I was given something!

Similarly, as soon as my kids were able to learn baby signs, I taught them how to say “thank you”, among the other polite manners and kind words like “please” and “sorry”. We know that gratitude is an attitude of deep thankfulness and appreciation for the benefits and kindness we perceive ourselves as receiving.

I believe as parents, it’s our duty to communicate this meaning and instill gratitude in children by teaching them how to be grateful even for presents received on birthdays or special occasions like Christmas or Thanksgiving. It has been important for me to explain to my children the meaning of the gift, alongside the intention and love with which it was given, not its value or size.

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow. “~ Melody Beattie

If you are wondering how to instill gratitude in children, you need to first begin with a decision, followed by regular, concrete lessons that should be included in the daily activities of your family.

Here are some of the best ways to instill gratitude in children:

1- Be role models and express gratitude regularly

When kids see you expressing thanks or gratitude, they will do the same. As parents, you need to model respect, politeness, and gratitude to encourage those qualities in kids.

It’s not enough to simply say “thank you” when required, instead make it a point to explain to your children what you are grateful for. Remember to express gratitude to all those people who help you, like the waitress who delivers you food, shopkeeper, or the helpers near your home and the kids will just pick it up from you.

2- List and count your blessings

Make it a point to have a few minutes of expressing thanks in the morning or while dinnertime. Let your kids join you to name a few things that you are grateful for, list them, make a small note of them, or maintain a journal about them that can filled by older children before going to bed.

Small things matter, so whether it’s a hug from your Grandma, a good grade at school, a gift from a friend, a favorite toy, such a practice leaves a positive impact on your children.

3- Keep things in moderation

Showering children with too many materialistic things reduces the gratitude impulse. So, don’t go overboard while buying them the best, instead do it in moderations so that they learn to value, respect, and remain grateful for those things.

Sometimes, have a family project involving going without something important, like making homemade bread and not buying it from the market, or foregoing a movie and saving up to gift a needy child. Such sacrifices make us miss things that we often take for granted, and help us become more grateful and humble when the things are reinstated.

It would help them value and be grateful for things if you make them pitch in if they want something. Don’t be the sole provider; instead if they receive a monthly allowance, pocket money, or are earning, ask them to save up for the things they want themselves.

Children would love to be active contributors and will work hard towards what they want. These are some things I practice and I know it worked wonders with my kids!

4- Use thank-you cards

One way to instill gratitude in children is by insisting that they use thank-you cards often. Whenever they receive gifts, or when they want to thank their teachers at the end of the year, or for any other small thing, ensure that they send out thank-you notes.

Also insist that they compose and hand-write the card themselves, as this instills a personal bonding with the card being sent. However, remember that you as parents need to set the example by sending out formal thank-you notes on a variety of occasions, as children learn it best from you.

My mom was very particular about us making the cards ourselves, and we as kids used to love decorating the cards and sending them out. My kids used to do the same till a few years back, though I insist they continue doing even now, at least for special occasions!


5- Help others and give back

Another great way to instill gratitude in children is by telling them how most other children in the world don’t even have a little of what they have- like toys, clothing, or food. Thus, they must be grateful for what they have and learn to value those things. I think most of our parents have told us this so often.

When kids reach an appropriate age, explain them about the challenges, illness, or natural disasters others may be facing. Empower kids by teaching them various ways they can help like by donating things they have outgrown, writing a letter, giving small gift bags with things to hospitalized children, or volunteering at a nursing home for a few hours.

Remember, when children give their energy and time to help others, they are less likely to take things like family, home, and health for granted, and such selfless service reduces selfishness in all of us adults  as well.

6- Remain a grateful parent

Tell your children how thankful you are to have them and do it often, as the way you treat your kids affects their growth much more than the rules you set. When your kids do things right, praise them with gratitude. Praise and appreciation was in abundance for me as a child, and this is something I try giving to my kids as well.

We as parents of course love our kids, are thankful for their love, hugs, smiles, and smallest of deeds. But when you tell them these things, their self-esteem boosts up, and such examples teach them that gratitude goes well beyond materialistic things.

Studies indicate that encouraging gratitude can increase the levels of happiness by nearly 25 percent, and may even be the cause for people to live more satisfied, happier lives, and enjoy higher levels of hope, empathy, self-esteem, and optimism.

So, with Thanksgiving round the corner, November is a great month to work on ways to foster the concepts of giving and instill gratitude in children. And be patient with your children, as each one of them has their own needs, fears, wants, and personalities. Remember, by teaching your children gratitude it will be something that they will always thank you for in the long run.

How wonderful it would be if we could help our children and grandchildren to learn thanksgiving at an early age. Thanksgiving opens the doors. It changes a child’s personality. A child is resentful, negative—or thankful. Thankful children want to give, they radiate happiness, and they draw people.” ~  Sir John Templeton

Gratitude is more than an attitude, more than polite manners and positive thinking. It is a way of life and a magnificent legacy to leave our children. So, don’t think about how to instill gratitude in children, instead start taking these steps to instill this significant attitude in your family today, for a better tomorrow. J

How did you instill gratitude in children? Did you face any problems while instilling gratitude in your kids? Share in the comments below.


Photo Credit: Vasile Tomoiagă

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  1. Hello Ms Harleena,

    It is a nice article. As a proud dad i can definitely tell you that our action speaks louder than words. The kid immitates various things from his parents & surrounding world. We have to be cautious while we are in front of them. Moreover i think this fear makes you more responsible towards your action. I have a small baby & i always think how to cultivate the good manners & right attitude in his mind. Your articles always gives me insights into different matters.

    Thanks & regards,

  2. We sponsor a child from Indonesia and the monthly letters are great at pointing out the contrasts in the lives of our kids and hers. It causes a pause almost always in my children. Our goal is someday go and visit so they can get that first hand.

    1. Welcome to the blog Julie!

      I agree that cultural diversity also brings variety in social and family values too. There’s a remarkable difference between the east and the west with regards to what and how values are taught to children.

      It’s good to know that your family is looking forward to seek more exposure for experiencing good values that exist around the world.

      Thank you for stopping by and sharing your views. 🙂

  3. I pinned that adorable picture to our Pinterest page and it got a bunch of likes and re-pins in an hour. I think it’s going to go viral!

    On a note regarding the post, I think you offer very wise advice. I’m surprised to find such a cute and amusing picture attached to a pretty serious and insightful piece.

    1. Glad you liked the post and picture Apostle (Though what’s your real name?)!

      Ah…that picture is indeed adorable and has received many likes, and thanks so much for sharing it further on Pinterest. I guess it doesn’t really need any words and says it all – isn’t it?

      Thanks for stopping by. 🙂

  4. Hey,

    Though I don’t have kids of my own; I see my sister raising hers and I must agree with what you highlight here. Though there are many things which go into the raising of a child, nothing works like being the role model to your child. A child will always pick up many things from their parents and though parents might find it tough to be at their best always, they should realize that even if they have made a mistake, it is always wise to realize it and apologize. A child will always remember that it is okay to err, but it better to accept, be sorry for it and take responsibility for your own actions.

    Raising a child is probably tough and I don’t know whether I will be ready for it… ever 😉

    1. Sorry for the late reply Hajra!

      I thought I had replied, guess I missed it out 🙂

      You are absolutely right about being role models for your kids. Just as you must be seeing your sister raising her kids, you would be seeing that they learn best by watching their own parents, or doing just as their parents do. Small things also matter, so as parents you have to take extra care and watch each step or action you take, as your kids are always watching you- and they are very smart nowadays to pick up anything and everything 🙂

      Kids learn very fast, and as you are their role models, its best to do things you want them to learn- even though it takes a little bit of sincere effort from your side. I totally agree with you about learning to apologize for the mistakes you make, something most of us don’t do. But this is a very important lesson to convey to your kids.

      Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  5. Another way to teach kids about gratitude would be to show them fewer fortunate people. Not necessarily in real life, there are movies, even cartoons, books about kids who have a really hard life.

    1. Yes indeed, Robert!

      Children can be taught various ways to give, donate, or contribute towards charity. And showing them lesser fortunate people in all walks of life is a great way to make them realize how fortunate they are to have everything.

      Thanks for stopping-by. 🙂

  6. Hi Leena,

    Nice article. It is something that every parent should instill in their kids right from childhood. It’s not about them teaching manners to their kids, but it is about them fulfilling their duty to create a good human being that God has given to them.

    Great job done. Keep writing good articles.

    1. Welcome to the blog Vandana!

      Glad you liked the article and could relate to it. Values and manners are somethings that need to be instilled into kids, right from their childhood. Yes, you are right in saying that the role of the parents does not end by merely teaching manners or instilling values in them. Instead, they need to work on making them better human beings.

      Thanks for stopping-by. 🙂

  7. That is such an adorable photo, Harleena! =)

    As a child, my parents were also adamant about teaching me manners, but I love how you expand on that in this post by underlining the importance of setting an example of gratitude. It’s not just about saying “Thank You” when appropriate but also actually feeling that sense of thankfulness to others and for what we already have. I think that this can be contagious even in relationships. If I’m ever thankful then my partner may be as well. =)

    1. Glad you liked the photo Samantha!

      I guess most parents do try their best to instill manners and values in their children, though how much of it the kids retain is what really matters! Yes, you are so right, you need to feel the gratefulness and gratitude rather than just saying ‘Thank You’- and that has more of a meaning when it is felt from the heart.

      Thanks for stopping-by 🙂

  8. Hi Leena,

    This is such a beautiful post. I love the pic, the way you use your own personal experience to begin and then transcend to your experience with your children. Then you give concrete ways in which to accomplish teaching children gratitude. Beautifully written.

    Thank you for sharing your talent.

    1. Glad you liked the post Sally!

      The picture touched my heart as well the moment I saw it and I knew it was the perfect picture for the post. Yes indeed, my personal experiences always do find a place in my post as that is the voice of experience of having raised my two daughters. However, some people may not be really interested in knowing about my experiences so I do share ways to go about instilling such values in kids, which again are a mixture from my life, how my parents raised me, and some researched matter.

      Thanks for stopping-by. 🙂

  9. Yes Harleena,

    We are in the process of instilling gratitude to our children, even though they are young and probably do not really understand the context of being grateful. But slowly, as they are reminded to say thank you and to ask politely, I could see that they are appreciating things more and more.

    I like all your techniques shared here and it really points us towards being grateful. Some of these we still struggle with. Like keeping things in moderation. Sigh… every time our kids want something our heart just bleeds thinking that they could not have that. Usually we end up buying.

    1. Sorry to be replying so late Jimmy!

      I thought I had replied, guess I missed it 🙂

      I can well understand about you trying to instill gratitude in your kids, but they are still young- though this is the right age to get started! They will learn with time and patience, and of course with you being their role models 🙂

      Yes indeed, teaching your kids to not ask for everything, or stopping yourself from buying them whatever they want is surely not easy! However, it’s something you have to teach your kids while they are small so that when they are grown up, they are more understanding and wiser.

      Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  10. Thanks for the wonderful post Harleena.

    Well written and good points.

    This was one lesson my parents missed out teaching me as a kid – they most definitely regret it. However I’ve been able to learn this from other important people in my life.

    Love your site – will definitely be back soon to read more. Look forward to it.

    Keep well. ciao. Rochelle.

    1. Welcome to the blog Rochelle!

      Glad you liked the post and could resonate with it. I can understand that some parents may not have learnt gratitude from their parents, as their parents may not have learnt it from theirs, so its not passed on to their children, and may be in your case also that may have happened. Nevertheless, its nice to learn that you picked it up from other people- whom you must be grateful to for instilling such values in you.

      Thanks so much for liking the blog and stopping-by. Please do visit again for more stuff. 🙂

  11. After seeing this terrific photo, I am much more interested in how to instill this level of gratitude in dogs. Wonderful image, Harleena!

    1. Glad you liked the photo Astro!

      I fell for it the moment I saw it also. In-fact the photo credit though is given to Vasile Tomoiagă as I found it on Flickr, but according to him a friend sent him this picture that he put online, so it-s more easily view-able. The real image is otherwise from

      Thanks for stopping-by 🙂

  12. Hey Harleena,

    I don’t have kids yet but my wife and I used to have our differences when it came down to gratitude.
    My wife was born and raised in the US ( she’s the part of a high consuming nation 🙂 ) and me from a relatively poor and small European country. Due to my influence now we buy less of everything and make better use of what we have. I pointed out how fortunate we are compare to people who live in third world countries. We have everything we can ask for and we surely express gratitude for it each and every day.

    Thank you for the GREAT share!

    1. Glad you could resonate to the post Akos!

      Managing in less and yet being happy and content in your state is a great lesson to learn, which very few are able to do. We try the same at our end, and try teaching these very same basic values to our kids.

      I guess when you learn to manage with lesser resources, you learn to value them much more and that helps you later in life. This also teaches you that you can manage to live within limited resources as well, so why opt for buying things that you actually don’t require.

      Thanks for adding more value to the post by sharing your experiences. 🙂

  13. Harleena, aloha. What an fantastic image you selected to accompany this beautiful post. Looking at it makes me smile and fills me with gratitude.

    Though I do not have children, I agree with you that it is important to instill gratitude and manners from a young age. They provide an important framework for what we do in different circumstances and that framework provides a certain security.

    As we go through life, it is much better for people if “please” and “thank you” are a natural part of interactions as opposed to something that has to be remembered to do.

    Harleena, since you like quotes, let me share with you one of my favorites on gratitude. To me, it says it perfectly and would make it easy for a child to understand.

    “Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” William Arthur Ward

    Best wishes to you, my friend, for a glorious week ahead. Harleena, I am grateful that we connected and that you are a part of my life. #YouMatter Until next time, aloha. Janet

    1. Aloha Janet!

      Glad you liked the image, it touched my heart as well and I thought it was just perfect for the post!

      I remember when we were kids- our parents always made sure we were taught the right values and manners and it carried on right till we got married! I guess the teachings or values we are taught by our parents, at different ages- stays with us all life through.

      It is indeed true that the framework of instilled gratitude and manners taught to us when we are young, does provide us a certain security and stays with us all life through. Even though my mother is no more, but what she taught me and instilled in me, will always remain a part of me that I pass on to my kids every single day.

      That is a lovely quote of William Arthur Ward, and perfect for any child to understand, as it says a lot in simple words.

      Thanks so much for adding more value to the post and your best wishes. It is indeed a pleasure to meet you as well, and I remain ever so grateful for your kind words and the wonderful connection that we made. 🙂

  14. This is a great blog post!

    I especially agree with the part about thank you cards, I was always made to write thank you cards when I was younger and its stuck with me through life. I really think its just courtesy and good manners to do so, and I don’t understand why more people don’t do it!!!

    1. Welcome to the blog Harriet!

      Glad you could resonate with the post, and yes- thank-you cards were a must do on our list as well, when we were kids! I guess it does add a personalized touch to the card and the receiver also welcomes it. People don’t write thank-you cards any longer as there are other quicker mediums of sending cards nowadays, though they are never the same as hand-written ones.

      Thanks for stopping-by. 🙂

  15. Great article, especially as we head into Thanksgiving. We do a lot of thankfulness projects at home, for instance, last year we created “Thankful” trees to decorate for family. Sometimes they need some reminders (especially my son), but we keep trying!

    1. Welcome to the blog Amelia!

      Glad you liked the article and nice to learn about the wonderful thankfulness projects you carry out at home. Creating and decorating a ‘Thankful” tree is indeed a great idea for the family, in-fact a nice reminder to be grateful. I guess as parents we do manage to come up with innovative ideas, and kids learn it best when they see things practically or when their parents are part of it as well.

      Thanks for sharing your experiences with everyone. 🙂

  16. Excellent topic and great feedback from all!

    I would include that the job isn’t done when your children are grown. It takes a little more planning, but generosity and gratitude are important things to teach your grandchildren, too. I might add it’s more fun when it’s your grandchildren, too. 🙂

    I enjoy your blog. Thanks for writing!


    1. Welcome to the blog Kris!

      Glad you liked the post and the feedback from everyone as well. Oh yes, a parents job is never ending and it carries on right through, till their kids grow up, get married, have their own kids, or our grandchildren! And grandparents also play a major role in instilling such values in their grand children.

      Thanks for stopping-by. 🙂

  17. Gratitude is one of the most important traits/skills that we can help our children learn. It is of immense value and is something that provides great benefits for them.

    1. Welcome to the blog Jack- it sure is nice to have you here!

      Yes indeed, gratitude sure is the most important trait that we need to teach our children, besides the other manners, values, and skills. I guess being parents we need to become role models for them and demonstrate things, which would make it easier for them understand and follow suite.

      Thanks for stopping-by. 🙂

  18. Love the pic Harleena! 🙂

    I believe that having gratitude in life is so important for all of us and it is a smart move to instill it in children. I love the idea of sending thank you cards to people that help me out, it means so much to me also when I receive these too.

    1. Glad you liked the pic Justin- I fell for it the moment I saw it too!

      Yes indeed, we all are taught gratitude by our parents right when we were young, though we may not remember it as its more of a ritual followed by most parents. I guess they start with the very basic manners, kind words, and gratitude.

      Thank- you cards add a personal touch to the relationship I think, and if they are hand-made ones, you really feel nice when you receive them, and appreciate the efforts of the person who took out so much of time to craft them for you. Though such concepts are fast dying with the electronic media and ecards around nowadays, but it sure is something that parents should teach their kids so that there is a better bonding when they send such cards to their near and dear ones.

      Thanks for stopping-by. 🙂

  19. Same here!

    My parents used to say that phrase: “What do you say?” Until now, I have those values in me. I can still can remember my dad when he told me how happy he was because I still say thank you for even a simple things done for me or given to me. Anyway, they set a good example to me and my other siblings. Parents are indeed our first teachers to prepare us to be a better person in the future.

    1. Glad you could relate to the post Audrey!

      I guess most of our parents do say this phrase so often that we can all remember it well enough now, and do the same with our kids! Most of the values instilled in us when we were young kids, do remain with us when we grow up, and this is exactly what we need to do with our kids in return. And yes, parents are indeed our first teachers and the best ones we can ever get!

      Thanks for stopping-by. 🙂

      1. Yup! Values instilled in us is what we need to cherish all through out our lives. Like what you’ve said, we can also teach these values to our kids. Actually, not only to them but also to others who are part of our lives too.

        1. That is absolutely right Audrey! Values instilled in us when we are kids, remain with us all our life, and are passed down to our children and their children further on. It is a chain reaction and something that passes on from one generation to another.

  20. Amen!!

    You shared a very important lesson here, Harleena! I see it all the time; parents allowing their children to have their way, not giving them any boundaries at all. I’ve heard many parents say that they want their child to have it easier than they did growing up. This to me is the most ludicrous thing I’ve ever heard.

    Unless that parental figure is dead, in which case if they have children they are not; such comments should not be made or used. Something must have gone right somewhere with how they were raised, because they actually lived through it to have kids of their own.

    I think what goes unnoticed with a lot of parents is that they fail to see that being a role model, teaching a child to be grateful, and giving them boundaries in life; actually makes the child a better and more productive member of society as adults. Failing to do so, only continues to populate the prisons, or produces another type of an adult. The descriptions of those, I’ll keep to myself. 😉

    If it weren’t for my grandmother taking the position she took in my life; I would no doubt be a totally different individual than I am right now. I too, learned please, thank you, yes and no mam or sir; early on in my life. I also to this day still practice it whether the adult I’m speaking with is older or younger than me. Manners go so much further than rudeness does any day.

    In our daily journey, we need only watch the adults of the world and we’ll soon see who was raised right; as well as those that missed the course altogether. 😀

    1. Nice that you could resonate with the post Deeone!

      I too have noticed some parents being too liberal with their kids or going overboard with things, wanting to give them everything in the world because they were denied those things themselves. To a certain extent its alright, but if you overdo such things, you are simply spoiling the child and his future.

      We as parents DO need to role play 99% of the things we want out kids to follow. There are no two-ways about that, though few are really able to do that, which includes me also! I do try my best whenever I can, but sometimes it just doesn’t work out the way we want it to. Guess, so this is a reminder for me as well. 🙂

      I have read your awesome posts about your upbringing by your grandmother and she sure must be a wonderful person with so much of love, care, and patience. Those values instilled by your Granny in you, has made you what you are today, and am sure you must be every so grateful to her for everything she has done for you. Such gratitude comes from within when we grow up, while the very basics are instilled by our parents or caregivers when we are young.

      Thanks so much for adding more value to the post. 🙂

  21. Yes! The key of course to teaching any value to your child is to be the role model. Children learn far far more by watching and emulating your than they will ever learn simply by you saying something. These are fantastic tips.

    1. Welcome the the blog Bonnie!

      Yes indeed, being parents we need to be role models for our kids, and they also look up to us and emulate us all the time. I have experienced this with my kids, and same goes with my parents, as they were my perfect role models. I am what I am because of the values and lessons they taught me, and I followed suite.

      Thanks for stopping-by. 🙂

  22. Ah Harleena, lessons everyone should be teaching their children.

    My Dad worked from home so we were taught at a very young age how to be respectful when answering the phone. My mother instilled in us that we should thank people every time they did something nice for us. Thank you cards were a must in my family which is why I’m still big on them today. Just showing that simple sign of appreciation goes a very long way.

    I know growing up I felt these things they hammered into us annoying at times. As children we don’t fully understand the importance of them until we are a little older. I made a point of thanking my parents for these wonderful lessons later in life.

    For any young parent, start early and instill these lessons in your children. I have a feeling you will not regret that decision.


    1. Glad you could resonate to the post Adrienne!

      I read the beautiful tribute you wrote about your dad, and he sure did teach you great lessons, something you can never forget. I guess parents do the best for their kids by way of instilling values in their children, though children because they are young, as not able to take it in the right sense.

      What we were taught as kids when we were young, still holds so much of importance in our lives, and we do those things to date. I think most of us do.

      Mothers play different roles and fathers have their own ways of instilling wonderful life lessons to their children. However, once the hammering ( as you so rightly mentioned) continues, it does have a positive impact when kids grow up into responsible and humble adults.

      Thanks for sharing your life’s lessons and experiences with everyone and adding more value to the post. 🙂

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