Teaching Your Children About Thankfulness

The holidays are a time of giving, but children often think the holidays are all about what they are going to get. Turning our child’s attention to being thankful for what they already have is difficult, but you can create an attitude of thankfulness in your household this holiday season – and have fun doing it. Battle the holiday “give me” attitude with a healthy dose of gratitude.

1. Create a thankfulness wall. Grab a pad of sticky notes and a pen for each member of your family. Designate a wall in your home to be your thankfulness wall. Every night at dinner have each member of your family write down what they are thankful for that day. Stick the sticky notes to the wall. Every time your kids walk past the wall, they’ll be reminded of all they have for which they can be thankful. Keep adding things to your wall, and by the time the holidays roll around, your wall will be covered with sticky notes of gratitude.

2. Write thank you notes. Appreciate the people around you with a thank you note. Your kids have people who play important roles in their lives. Have them make and write thank you notes to some of those people. Help them focus on the things their teacher, coach or grandparent does to make them feel special. You’ll help your child learn an attitude of thankfulness, and you’ll brighten someone else’s day.

3. Make a difference. Many kids don’t realize that other people may not have as many things as they do. Give your kids an opportunity to see how homeless or orphaned kids live. Help serve a meal at a homeless shelter. Collect books for underprivileged kids, and take your kids along to deliver them. Help sort food at a food pantry. Talk about how some families need help just to put food on the table and clothes on their backs. Your family members will come home with a new view of their own lifestyle.

4. Turn off the grumbling. Make a new rule in your house that no complaining is allowed without paying for it. If your kids want to complain about something, it will cost them a quarter. Place a jar on the counter to collect your complaining toll. Be ready to curb your own complaining, too. Complaining is a habit, and it’s one you can break. Reducing complaining and whining in your home takes the focus off of the things that make you unhappy and creates more time and energy for focusing on the things for which you are thankful. After a while, complaining will be a habit that’s been kicked to the curb in your home.

5. Make “thank you” mandatory. Teach your kids to thank people when others do something for them. From thanking a coach after practice to thanking your sister for passing the ketchup, saying “thank you” isn’t just polite. It’s training your kids to be grateful for what they are given. Every time they say “thank you” they are acknowledging that they have something for which to offer gratitude.

Battling your child’s natural selfish inclinations isn’t always easy, but it is worth it. Take some time this holiday season to win the battle for their attitudes. The rewards will stretch far beyond the holidays.

About Marion Witte

Marion Witte was born and raised on a farm on the prairies of North Dakota. It was there that she acquired her Midwestern work ethic and her philosophy of helping others. Marion enjoyed a successful career as an entrepreneur, and upon selling her various business interests she began pursuing a life of philanthropy. She is passionate and outspoken about the need for radical changes in the way we view children and parenting. Her memoir “Little Madhouse on the Prairie” relays the story of her life, and it is the basis of her commitment to this work. She founded and manages the Angel Heart Foundation and its sister organizations “Next Generation Parenting” and “Brave New Leaders.”

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