Creative Child

Beyond “Thank you”

Raising Grateful Kids
by Rebecca Eanes


Beyond “Thank you”

Imagine someone hands a child a gift or a treat. What is the parent’s reaction? Usually, they turn to the child and whisper, “What are you supposed to say?” The child responds with, “Thank you.” The child was just taught gratitude, right? Well, not quite. Gratitude is about feeling appreciation and expressing it. Words are meaningless if there’s no feeling behind them. We can train our children to act thankful by insisting they say thank you, but to cultivate genuine thankfulness, we have to move beyond words and speak to the heart.

Cultivating True Gratitude

Gratitude achieves its most power when it is automatic and habitual. To increase our own feelings of thankfulness year-round, and to help our children develop a true attitude of gratitude, we need to incorporate it into our daily lives. Here are 5 ideas to get you started.

  1. Create a gratitude board. This is a great family activity to increase everyone’s thankfulness. You can use a white board and have each family member write on it, or you can be more creative and tack photos, notes, and such to it. Each day after dinner, visit the gratitude board and ask each person to add to it. 
  2. Develop daily gratitude habits. Daily practices such as keeping a gratitude journal or verbally listing three good things at bedtime is a great way to start shifting your child’s lens to see the good in each day. 
  3. Speak the language. Dr. Robert Emmons suggests “trafficking the language of thankfulness” by using language such as “gifts,” “givers,” and “receivers,” on a regular basis. Speak out loud the goodness you are noticing each day using this kind of language until it becomes a habit to view the world in this way.
  4. Give someone else a reason to be thankful for you. Allow your children to experience the other side of thankfulness by doing something good for someone else. Make volunteering and performing random acts of kindness a regular thing in your home.
  5. Flip the script in challenging times. It’s not too difficult to be grateful when you receive a new iphone for Christmas, but being grateful in hard times is the true mark of having developed authentic gratitude. Help your child look for silver linings on rainy days and ask them what is the one gift they can take away from even the biggest challenges. 

“The more grateful I am, the more beauty I see.” - Mary Davis


  1. Nguyen SP, Gordon CL. The Relationship Between Gratitude and Happiness in Young Children. Journal of Happiness Studies. November 2019. doi:10.1007/s10902-019-00188-6
Rebecca Eanes is the bestselling author of multiple books including Positive Parenting: An Essential Guide, The Positive Parenting Workbook, and The Gift of a Happy Mother. She is the grateful mom of two boys. 


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