November’s Parenting Tip: Teaching Children Gratitude

Oct 30, 2020

Thanksgiving is a time of year when we all need to take a moment to reflect on life’s blessings and give thanks. But in this time of COVID, when it seems like so much has been taken away, how can you instill an attitude of gratitude?

According to Kris McPhail, Curriculum Specialist for the Downtown Ebenezer Child Care Program, families need to discuss gratitude with their children and talk about what they are thankful for. Parents need to model gratitude by saying please and thank you in front of their children, writing and sending thank you cards, or baking a thank you treats.

A 2019 study found that gratitude is linked to happiness in children by the age of five. The Raising Grateful Children Project at UNC came up with four components of gratitude. Noticing-Recognizing the things that you have to be grateful for. Thinking-Thinking about why you have been given these things. Feeling-The emotions you experience as a result of the things you have been given. Doing-The way you express appreciation.

There are several things you can do in your home, your neighborhood, and your community to instill an attitude of gratitude in your children.

In Your Home
McPhail suggests as soon as your children begin to speak, encourage them to say please and thank you. Take time every day to show gratitude to your children. Thank them for helping you. Show appreciation for good behavior, and recognize when your children put forth extra effort.

Plan a family gratitude project. Examples include writing things you are thankful for on post-it notes and putting them on a bulletin board or the refrigerator for everyone to see. Or after writing the notes, putting them into a large jar. Another method is to post a paper tree on a wall and write your thankful note on leaf-shaped piece of paper adding a leaf daily or weekly.

Establish a gratitude ritual. At a predetermined time and place, like at the dinner table or at bedtime, have each family member say something they were thankful for that day.

Instead of visiting in person with family and friends, use Skype or Facetime for video visits. Have grandparents read books to grandchildren virtually. Introduce children to “snail mail.” Have them draw pictures and mail them to their grandparents. And if possible, have family members send mail to your children. Everyone loves to get unexpected mail!

In Your Neighborhood
When a new family moves into your neighborhood, you and your children could bake them a treat and drop it on their porch with a note to introduce yourselves. This teaches your children how to be good neighbors and caring individuals.

Another great idea is to have your family help someone in your neighborhood who is elderly, injured, or handicapped and needs some assistance with lawn care or household projects. Taking the time to do a few random acts of kindness with your children goes a long way in leaving a lasting impression about all that we have to be grateful for.

In Your Community
As a family, identify one local nonprofit organization that helps those less fortunate to support each year. This could be a homeless shelter, an elderly care facility, or a local food bank. Then, as a family, make it a goal to do something positive for this organization each season.

Contact the organization to see how you can help. Some are accepting donations of used clothing and toys at this time while others are not. Whatever you can do to help will be a rewarding experience for your entire family and instill a real sense of gratitude in your children for years to come.

Ebenezer Child Care Centers is a not-for-profit, locally based agency committed to providing early childhood programs from the heart. The agency prides itself on being different from other child care providers in that it offers a home-like atmosphere; individualized, nurturing care; and a structured curriculum that is virtues-based for every child’s developmental stage.

Every Ebenezer Child Care Center focuses on all aspects of a child’s development: cognitive, physical, emotional, and social. In addition to providing quality care, the agency also offers other educational programming all aimed at helping parents.

The agency has locations in downtown Milwaukee, Oak Creek, and West Allis. For more information, please call 414-643-5070 or visit the agency’s website at