How to Give Our Kids a Dose of Gratitude

It’s the halfway point of our summer. Most days my kids are rolling out of bed past 9am, living in pajamas or swimsuits and putting the L in lazy. It’s been a fun summer so far and everyone is fairly happy until momma asks them to do something. So, you know, normal.

I’ve talked about the challenge of raising grateful kids in an entitled world. I’ve learned that thanksgiving is a journey, not a destination and that the old saying “Gratitude is the shortest lived emotion” is absolutely true.

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

Because most days I’m thankful and then about 45 seconds later, I’m not. If I feel down or grumpy, if I’m complaining or wishing for something I don’t have, 99.9% of the time it’s because I’m not being thankful and when I take the time to count the gifts in my life, it changes the way I feel about the situation.


Here’s why: a change of perspective changes us.

The best way to give our kids a needed dose of gratitude is by altering the way they see their life.

My 11 and 13 year olds spent 20 hours serving last week.

And we all got way more than expected.

Way back in April, the smart momma in me coerced them into applying to be Junior Volunteers at the popular Science Camp their little sister was attending at a local church, I was thinking it would give them something to do in the middle of the summer.

I was also thinking about 20 hours in which all three of my kids would be occupied at the same time. Some might call that a miracle in July. I spent every glorious hour working on finishing my book (50,000 words. Yo.)

Every night my kids would share funny stories and their adventures. I heard about the highs and lows of playing with preschoolers, assisting teachers, wiping tables, holding sticky hands, answering 186 questions. But instead of complaining or dreading it, they were enjoying every minute of it.

It felt good to serve. It was fun to be needed. It made them appreciate those who served them. It showed them how hard some kids have it in life. It completely changed their perspective and reminded them of all they had. Serving altered their view and seeing the world a little differently made them thankful.

Amazing, huh?

Give your kids (and maybe yourself) a change of perspective.

For the last two weeks, we’ve been reading Running for My Life by Lopez Lomong after dinner. It’s the story of an Olympic runner who was a Lost Boy of Sudan. My kids are mesmerized and beg for my husband to continue at the end of every chapter. It’s a painful story to hear–so much suffering, but it’s also miraculous and amazing.  We are only half way thru and the book has done something crucial in our home: it has changed our perspective.

It’s hard to complain about dinner or cleaning up dishes when you’ve just read about a 6 year old boy who digs sand out of his handful of grain he gets every other day, as he’s being forced to be a child soldier.

4 Ways to Change Your Child’s Perspective and Spontaneously Create Gratitude:

  1. Exposure: let your kids see those with less–take them on a missions trip, even if it’s to the nearest nursing home or homeless spot under the bridge. Take blankets and food and share them. Sometimes we are reminded how much we have, by simply seeing how little others have. It’s powerful. 
  2. Service: There’s just something extraordinary that happens when we serve others.  Not only can everyone serve, everyone needs to. It’s the key to unlocking fullness in life. Check out this list of 100 Ways to Make a Difference with Your Family.
  3. Work: Complaining is the opposite of thanking. When my kids are griping about things in their life, it’s often best to combat it by turning the tables and letting them try a hand at hard work (laundry, making dinner, cleaning, etc). It immediately changes their perspective because it’s often not as easy as it looks!
  4. Introduction: Read books to your kids about different cultures. It easy to live in a safe, abundant bubble. Step out of it through reading and stir up gratitude. Books that will do just that: Kisses from Katie: A Story of Relentless Love and Redemptionand The Hiding Place.

Gratitude is a way of life. Thankfulness is stopping long enough to say it or show it and making sure we pause in our busy day to receive it. In our abundance, being thankful is an act of beauty and acknowledging and appreciating the gifts in our lives makes us want to give them away.


  1. 1

    Courtney says

    Yes, yes, yes, yes!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! People in general are so ungrateful- it’s so sad to me. I’ve often said if I teach my son nothing else, as long as he learns to be grateful I’ll be happy! :) Great post- pinned it and shared it!

  2. 2

    Jen says

    Good article! It is so tough to teach them how to be “in” this world but not “of” this world. Your article gives me some ideas. Thanks!!

  3. 3


    Excellent thoughts and suggestions! I would also include modeling for your children what gratitude looks like.

    By the way, the phrase is: “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” 😉

    Have you read “A Long Way Gone” (Ishmael Beah)?

  4. 4

    Sherrie says

    Thank you for this! I feel like most of the time I am failing with my son, but many times I am no better.
    As always, you speak to my heart!

  5. 5


    Thanks for the applicable suggestions…I think it is crazy how entitled my kiddos seem sometimes & how we get so caught up in our 1st world problems (yikes the dvd has a scratch)…I try to model for them a heart of gratitude, but sometimes I don’t think it is catchy. So I love the hands on suggestions. Thanks!

  6. 6

    Heather Johns says

    Thank you so much. I will be using these resources. I just had a horrible interaction with one son tonight that sent me into despair about his entitlement. Teaching gratitude will get us all out of our comfort zones, and it’s worth it.

  7. 7


    Such a good post! Thank you for addressing this. It has taken me by surprise what a big issue this is in our children. I think there is something of “the spirit of the age’ involved. I’ll be sharing this on our Hope at Home facebook page so other parents can benefit from your ideas. Thanks!

  8. 8

    Robin says

    Great post. My teenage girls have volunteered at our church’s urban day camp. They are learning so many life skills in the midst of helping. My older daughter (17) has done this for 4 years and her perspective on needs vs wants is refreshing. They are both invested in the kids and come home with great stories. I did not make them do it and at first wondered if my 14 year old would do the entire 5 weeks. It has been wonderful to see what God is doing in their lives and hearts!

  9. 9


    Yes – I agree 100% with you on this issue! Adults and kids alike need to learn how to look at their situations as a “jar half full” instead of the other way around. There are too many negative people in the world today and it’s because they refuse to look at how much they truly do have.

  10. 10

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