Teaching Kids to be Thankful

Nov 8, 2008

This is a great time of year to instill gratitude and thankful hearts in children. However, it can be difficult when most children growing up in the most recent generations (Generation Y – also known as the Millenium Generation and Generation Z) have never known life without the luxuries of the computer, cell phone and MTV.

Not to spend too much time on the Generation Phenomenon, but Generation Y is typically identified as children born between the late 1970s and late 1990s or 2000. September 11, 2001 is recently said to have been the dividing moment between Generation Y and Generation Z, or children born between 2001 and 2021. In either group, children have never known suffering from global, financial or cultural crises. They have been provided for and have no understanding of The Cold War, The Great Depression or even the impact of the 1960s. Read more about Generation Y in a previous blog post: Generation Y in the News.

Due to this interesting generation of children, it is difficult to effectively express that other people are not necessarily as fortunate. Some go to bed hungry, others have clothes that are too small, some have no coats to keep them warm. Teaching those lessons often comes with experience and age, but small things can be done to instill thankfulness early on.

There is a pretty humorous commercial about unused cell phone minutes, and the mom is constantly pulling little ticking clocks out of the garbage that her kids have thrown away. She says, “Some families don’t have any rollover minutes at all. Think about that!”. A pretty accurate illustration of the disposable mentality that we have, and the lack of appreciation for our blessings.

Some easy ideas to help combat ingratitude are as follows:

  • Give your children the opportunity to volunteer. Serving food at a food bank, sorting clothes at a shelter, building a home with Habitat for Humanity, etc. The more outside their comfort zone they are and the more exposure they have to others that are ‘different’, the more they will recognize and appreciate their lives.
  • Encourage the girl/boy scout troop, classroom, team, etc. to which your child belongs to write cards of gratitude to people who usually go unrecognized. Cafeteria workers, janitors, office personnel, maintenance workers and others in similar positions typically are not acknowledged for their service and contribution.
  • Give your children responsibility for their possessions and things. The more a child assumes responsibility for your house, belongings, toys, etc. the more he or she will value and appreciate those items.
  • Model thankful behavior as a parent. You are the most significant example of any quality for your children, so make efforts to consistently demonstrate and discuss your grateful attitude. When you pass a homeless person, use that as a teaching moment by acknowledging how thankful you are to have a home.

Recognize that every child is selfish and ungrateful at times. You will probably find yourself thinking your kids have no idea how good they have it. However, that just gives you an opportunity to instill significant changes in your kids, as they learn to recognize how being thankful is a great way to live!

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