11 Ways to Raise Grateful Kids

Today Mighty Mommy shares 11 ways to instill a mindset of gratitude in your children and in your family’s way of life.

Cheryl Butler
6-minute read
Episode #257

Tip #5: Have You Filled a Bucket Today?

A few years ago, one of my kid’s teachers introduced us to a wonderful book called How Full is Your Bucket? For Kids written by Tom Rath.  This beautifully illustrated book is something my daughter is still talking about.  In fact, I bought a copy for all 8 of my kids at Thanksgiving last year so they’d pass it along to their own families someday. 

Through the story of a little boy named Felix, this charming book explains to children how being kind not only helps others, it helps them, too. Some people are happy, but others are grumpy or sad. Using the metaphor of a bucket and dipper, Felix’ grandfather explains why the happy people make Felix feel good, while the others leave him feeling bad — and how Felix himself is affecting others, whether he means to or not.   Now, in our house we commonly ask one another—“Have You Filled a Bucket Today?”

Tip #6: Make Giving and Volunteering a Habit

Set aside toys and clothing that's in good condition. Deliver the items to a deserving cause all together, as a family. Talk about the process and why you think it's important to do this. Tap into organizations like Global Giving that offer a virtual marketplace for making a difference. Check out my episode 5 Fun Ways to Encourage Kids to Volunteer for more ideas on encouraging giving.

Tip #7: Introduce Your Kids to Window Shopping

In our family of 8 kids, being considerate and careful in our buying habits is essential to maintain our comfortable lifestyle. That's why we taught our large brood early on that just because we go shopping, doesn’t mean we always leave the store with purchases.  Ever since my kids were toddlers, we tok them on “window shopping” excursions where we went to local malls, department stores, or even flea markets and fairs and just walked around and looked. 

We explained that even Mom and Dad love to look at the latest home tech gadgets and items for the house as well as designer clothing and sports gear, but it’s not necessary or always possible to purchase them.  Of course, this doesn’t’ stop kids from yearning for material possessions, but they’ve learned that we have to budget and plan on bigger purchases, regardless of whether or not our neighbor already has these things.

Tip #8: Create a Gratitude Gift List

Holiday and birthday wish lists are always fun, and necessary, but it’s also a good idea to create a gratitude gift list.  This list contains items that can’t be purchased, no matter how rich you are:  good health, a loving family, a cuddly puppy who licks your face every day after school, home baked cookies from Grandma, the gift of being a fast soccer player, or the ability to sing or play an instrument.  By generating the list in a positive way, you demonstrate how valuable these non-material things really are. It can be a keepsake for years to come.

Tip #9: Encourage Good Manners

"Please" and "thank you" are and always will be the magic words.  Get in the habit of teaching these to your kids at an early age. While they’re young and learning how to use them, be patient and role model for them.  If your son says “Give me a glass of milk” gently rephrase it for him by modeling “Mom, can I please have a glass of milk, I’m so thirsty.”   It may not seem like a big deal now, but through repetition and modeling, your kids will soon have this polite and thoughtful way of speaking ingrained in them for life.  Family meal time is the perfect place to practice these words.

Tip #10: Count Your Blessings

There's nothing wrong with kids being grateful for material objects, as long as that doesn't supersede gratitude for the love and support of the people in their lives.  My kids will be the first to tell you that I will comment, out of the blue, about the blessings we all have.  When I’m up to my eyebrows in laundry, I’ll say something like “Thank goodness for my washer and dryer, I don’t know how my ancestors washed little boy’s pants over a rock in a stream!”  

It's like when we lose power due to a storm, that's when we start to realize how blessed we are to have electricity every day.  But why wait for the storm? Get into the habit of appreciating and sharing with your kids the things that make our lives so much easier on a daily basis—especially the gift of good health and a loving family.

Tip #11: Expose Kids to the Less Fortunate

Even if a child is too young to feel the pain of those who have less than she does, she can still learn at a young age to appreciate what she has by being exposed to those who are less fortunate. This isn't to say you should all pile in the car and take a driving tour of the nearest slum. There are other options.

Soup kitchens, literacy programs, food drives, volunteering at an animal shelter. My kids and I go to an annual holiday dinner for the homeless in our town and they see firsthand how excited these kids are to receive one gift from the Santa figure that comes—usually a board game, a doll, a skateboard—maybe a bike—not the plethora of electronic gifts they ask for and receive every year. 

I don’t use this as a way to make them feel guilty. But I do believe that our fortunate kids need to realize that it’s not an easy world we live in and it’s important for them to witness real families who have hit hard times. It puts things in perspective, which is another one of those priceless things you could put on your gratitude wish list.

How do you make gratitude a part of your family’s life?  Share your thoughts in the comment section at quickanddirtytips.com/mighty-mommy or post your ideas on the Mighty Mommy Facebook page. You can also connect with me on Twitter @MightyMommy or e-mail me at mommy@quickanddirtytips.com.  Visit my family-friendly boards at Pinterest.com/MightyMommyQDT.

As we approach Thanksgiving Day, Mighty Mommy wishes you all a day of joyful togetherness with your grateful families. Until next time, Happy Parenting!

Thank you, child with board, and please images courtesy of Shutterstock.


All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own mental health provider. Please consult a licensed mental health professional for all individual questions and issues.

About the Author

Cheryl Butler Project Parenthood

Cheryl L. Butler was the host of the Mighty Mommy podcast for nine years from 2012 to 2021. She is the mother of eight children. Her experiences with infertility, adoption, seven pregnancies, and raising children with developmental delays have helped her become a resource on the joys and challenges of parenting. You can reach her by email.