How to Teach Your Kids to Be Thankful

It is important to fight entitlement by thinking about your blessings.

Remember, our kids do as we do, not as we say. Let’s reverse entitlement by stopping the comparison game and instead being grateful for all we’ve been given.

When our son, Landon, was 3, he came home from preschool with brown construction paper cut into the shape of feathers and a note for Christi and me.

We were to talk with Landon about what he was thankful for and then write them on the respective feathers. When we sat down with him to learn what he was thankful for, he didn’t know what it meant to be “thankful.”

I know he was only 3 years old at the time, but it was a big lesson for Christi and me.

The upcoming holidays are the perfect soil for the growth of entitlement, especially with technology and screens being some of the most popular gifts given to children in America.

Think about it in your own world. You see your friends enjoying vacations, taking trips, and living lives you privately envy. Voyeurism of others’ lives via social media breeds covetousness even in the best of us.

Now enter into your child’s world, with a still-developing brain, and in a season when emotions are likely first being felt at a deep level in relation to peers.

The holidays are ripe for entitlement not just because our kids receive presents — often in excess — but because unlike ever before, they can see what they don’t have.

Reversing entitlement begins with gratitude. But it starts with us parents.

First, it’s the Father’s will for us to “give thanks in everything; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thess. 5:18).

Secondly, gratitude is scientifically proven to make life more rewarding. Research shows we can live a happier life by asking, “What am I grateful for?”

Here are a few more ways to teach your kids what it means to be thankful:

  • Either at dinner or before bedtime each night, describe for your kids what you’re thankful for and ask them what they were thankful for that day.
  • Practice becoming more openly thankful toward one another in front of your kids.
  • Begin each day by sending a short “thank you” email or text message to someone you’re thankful for.
  • Each day, post on social media something you’re grateful for. Don’t use it as a brag post. Nobody enjoys that. Show genuine gratitude.
  • Give more compliments than complaints to your kids. Specify the thoughtful behavior or gesture you’re complimenting.

Remember, our kids do as we do, not as we say. Let’s reverse entitlement by stopping the comparison game and instead being grateful for all we’ve been given.

Josh Straub, Ph.D. serves as Marriage and Family Strategist for LifeWay Christian Resources and is president and cofounder of The Connextion Group, a company designed to empower families to live, love, and lead well. He is author of four books including Safe House: How Emotional Safety is the Key to Raising Kids Who Live, Love, and Lead Well. Josh and his wife, Christi, reside in Nashville with their children.