The Importance of Teaching Gratitude

Thank you. Two words that we are asked to mimic as young children when our parents teach us manners, as they teach us to be grateful… however as with many phrases sometimes when used too much it can become meaningless.

But think of what “thank you” really means. It isn’t some simple phrase we should throw out absentmindedly; it is a meaningful phrase that acknowledges gratitude and appreciation.

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

As parents we hope that we raise grateful children with gracious hearts but the truth is, while most people may be born with the ability to feel thankful, the act of acknowledging with gratitude is a learned trait. As parents we set the standard as to what we should be grateful for and what should be expected. Not that we shouldn’t be grateful for what is expected but at times the gesture, when expected is overlooked.

It is expected as a parent that you clothe, feed and take care of your children. But is it expected that you sacrifice your own agenda to serve theirs? That you don’t stay at home reading your book or meeting your friends to take them to their practices and play dates or “Gettys”? There is a part of us that says “yes, as parents you should put your kids first” but the truth is while I do think we should put our children first most of the time, it shouldn’t be expected, and it shouldn’t be all of the time. And I do believe we should teach our children not to take for granted when we as parents put them first. We should show them how people in their lives make efforts and sacrifices for them.  We should teach them that the actions of others that make us happy, help or benefit us should be appreciated and acknowledged.


For example, my parents are amazing grandparents. They love showering my kids with gifts and having them go over for sleepovers, etc. And my children adore their grandparents and love being in their company. But when they do get a gift from my parents regardless of how big or small I will remind them… Your grandparents were going along in their day and thought of you when they purchased this because they wanted to make you happy.  Your grandmother could have bought herself a new purse or your grandfather a new gadget even if she has a hundred purses and he has a hundred gadgets that he doesn’t know how to use. I let them know that the fact is they have worked hard for their money and have every right to spend it on themselves but because they love their grandkids they CHOOSE to spend it on them.  The same is true of how their grandparents choose to spend their time which is even MORE valuable than material things.

When their stepfather attends their school event, or goes out of his way to help me get them to different places, I let them know: Your stepfather loves you but the fact is, he is not obligated to do those things, especially because he is not your father but he does them because he loves you and it makes him happy to see you happy.  For that they should be grateful as am I.

It may sound a bit harsh to call these things out but having the presence of mind to appreciate when people make an effort for you is important especially when the fact is NO ONE has to do anything for you. NO ONE owes you anything.  And here is the important cycle, when you raise a child that is gracious and appreciative, it pleases people to give and share with them. To give and share with them help, attention, gifts and love. And if taught to be gracious the more they receive and in turn, the more they will be grateful. When you take time from your day, or money from your pocket and do something for someone and they take it for granted, or not even so much as acknowledge your effort or say thank you, the fact is less satisfying to give. Not because you need any sort of actual compliment or acknowledgement but because in being thankful and gracious they are showing and letting you know how happy you have made them. And generally speaking we do things to make our loved ones happy.

“When a person doesn’t have gratitude, something is missing in his or her humanity. A person can almost be defined by his or her attitude toward gratitude.” -Elie Wiesel

Teach you children from a small age to be grateful. Every time someone brings them something to drink or eat, whether you, a family member, friend or even waiter teach them to say thank you. When they are given gifts at birthdays, teach them to write thank you notes or to go up to each individual to say thank you. If someone helps them with a school assignment or helps make a day or event special for them, teach them to take time out and personally go up to that person and show how happy it made them and how grateful they are.

Of course there is a part of us that hopes our children would have a natural inclination to do this but behaviors are learned. They may feel gratitude but not know the proper behavior. That is where you can teach and lead by example. We raise our children for the world and the world would be a better place if people were kinder and more grateful and thankful for even the little things.



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