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Teaching Gratitude

10/14/2016 8:28 AM


It is so hard to believe, but the holiday season is just around the corner.  Over the coming months, many of us will gather with our families to celebrate faith, culture, togetherness, freedom and times of thanksgiving.   Though people celebrate many different holidays in many different ways, a common thread that weaves together our quilt of diversity is GRATITUDE.

Such a simple word!  The official definition is the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.  Such a simple word; yes, but a difficult mindset in which to live.  So, how do we teach our young children to grasp, express and live in this state of gratitude and thankfulness?  Here are a few tips for instilling the character quality of gratitude in our cherished little ones.

Start simply. Begin with the basics of “please” and “thank you” before children are even verbal.  Very young children take their social cues from the adults around them using their developing receptive language skills.  Teaching them, by modeling, that we say “please” to obtain and “thank you” after receiving introduces this concept of thankfulness in the most basic of ways.  For babies, who cannot express with words, consider teaching them basic signs for “please” and “thank you.”   Once children grasp this rudimentary social exchange, they can begin to conceptualize the more abstract concept of gratitude.



thank you

Model gratitude for your children.   Author Robert Fulghum has said, “Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.”  Like it or not, children will learn their parents behaviors, actions and mindsets, both good and bad.  In personal daily routines, embed comments that express gratitude and thankfulness.  Continually model for children that we can be thankful at all times for good and bad things that come our way.   Even seemingly bad things can become unexpected blessings!

Play the “I’m grateful for…” Game.  This can happen anywhere, at any time.  Take turns identifying with your child things you are thankful for.  This will give you an opportunity to teach your child different things you can be grateful for without taking it too seriously.  You could even try naming something you are thankful for to correspond to every letter of the alphabet.


food to eat
warm, cozy home

Deepen understanding of why we are grateful. Once your children have grasped the simple concept of what they are grateful and thankful for (a warm house, food to eat, etc.), help expand their understanding by explaining why we are grateful for things.  For example, I am thankful for this delicious meal because my body needs healthy food to grow strong.  Connecting these items will only further enhance their understanding of the complex character quality of gratitude. 


Read topic books together to teach the concept of gratitude. There are countless children’s books that help us teach character qualities such as gratitude and thankfulness to our children.   Often stories will stick with children, and can be referred to later in the day or week to reinforce this concept.   Looking for a place to start?  Try one or all of these great reads!


Rubber Shoes by Gladys Elizabeth Barbieri


·        I Am Special: Daily Gratitude and Affirmations for Children             by Ashton Jones

·        Thank You, World by Alice B. McGinty

·        Thanks for Thanksgiving by Julie Markes

·        The Thanksgiving Door by Debbie Atwell

·        Thankfulness by Cynthia Amoroso

Thankfulness and gratitude are qualities that we all need to develop, and as parents, caregivers, role models, teachers, we must be extremely diligent to instill these qualities in the next generation.  We at Crittenton Centers are grateful for many things, so many that it’s a whole different story!  Look for my post on all the things we are grateful for on November 11th

Thankful and grateful for your continued support of Crittenton Centers,

Keri Hattan
Vice President and COO

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