Teaching Kids to Be Grateful

“In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). What can we as moms do to help our children toward this vital, biblical, positive, life-giving mindset? Typically children are self-centered, unobservant, and demanding, summarized as—ungrateful. 

Gratitude Is Important

Why is gratitude important in all of our lives? Certainly, we love to be around grateful people, and then we also want to be appreciated for what we, as moms, do for our families. Why, though, is gratitude critical for our children’s future? 

We read in Deuteronomy 28:47, “Because thou servedst not the LORD thy God with joyfulness, and with gladness of heart, for the abundance of all things.” Deuteronomy 28 is describing all the curses that will come upon Israel because of their disobedience (v45). These curses will also be signs and reminders to them (v46)  that they didn’t obey joyfully and with gladness of heart, for ALL THE THINGS GOD DID FOR THEM. Could we sum up verse 47 by saying they weren’t grateful? Can you see how essential gratefulness is for our children to learn? It isn’t just a nice character addition, but it can play a huge part in their walk with the Lord. 

Will our children have an entitlement mentality with the Lord, or will they recognize and praise Him for His blessings and joyfully serve Him? Gratitude blesses both the doer and the recipient. The doer welcomes hearing how his kindness blessed the recipient. Now, this is the key part. The recipient GREATLY benefits from sharing how the kindness benefited him. 

Here is how it works. The recipient has to first recognize and then proclaim.

  • Recognize: This is an ever-present awareness of someone doing something for them and to mentally process what it cost the person and how it has benefited them as the recipient.
  • Proclaim: This is to share verbally what was recognized. Without proclaiming, most of the blessing is missed. The doer is further encouraged by how his love and service to the other was used of God.  


If we want our children to be grateful, it starts with us having grateful hearts and frequently speaking words of gratitude. We need to be moms who are verbally thankful to our husbands, our children, and others. Do we recognize and proclaim when they do something kind for us, helpful, or give us something? We should have hearts that don’t complain about negative situations but find ways to give thanks through them. 

Our children will learn first and perhaps foremost through our example. When we are negative complainers, they will be as well. When we expect the kindnesses shown to us, take them for granted, and don’t express gratitude, they will too.

Teach and Practice

Teach your children the importance of gratitude. You can work with them in the gratitude process of recognizing and proclaiming. Children are children, and they need lots of instruction and reminders. We can’t expect them to develop grateful hearts without investing time in teaching and then working with them. 

Give your children opportunities to practice gratitude by role-playing and specifically doing things for them where the proper response would be to recognize and proclaim their gratitude.

Rewards and Consequences

When your child expresses gratitude, notice it and praise him (Sounds a bit like recognize and proclaim, doesn’t it?) for his words or actions. Your smiles, hugs, and positive reinforcement should encourage him to want to continue to have grateful responses. 

When he hasn’t been grateful, you might point it out to him and help him figure out what he should have said or done to be thankful. 

When Not Thankful

“Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened” (Romans 1:21). God gives us a sobering view into the consequence of not being thankful. Gratitude is first offered to God and then to those around us. As mothers, we want to purposefully help our children have thankful hearts. 

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