3 Ways to Teach Your Kids to Be Thankful

The holidays can bring great times for fathers and their kids. And Thanksgiving is a perfect opportunity to teach our children—and model for them—what it means to be thankful. (Although it shouldn’t be just a once-a-year thing.)

A researcher from the University of California-Davis found that having gratitude can bring some emotional and physical benefits. Even in tough times or when odds are against them, people who are grateful—rather than complaining or focusing on their challenges—are more relaxed and have less stress and anger. And we know the many physical dangers that can come with a stressful lifestyle.

We also know there are many obstacles to a life of gratitude and thanksgiving in our culture—busyness, high competition, individualism, and often a sense of victimization. It takes real effort to avoid those negatives, and thankfulness is a great starting place.

Maybe that’s what the Roman philosopher Cicero had in mind when he wrote that gratitude is “not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.” I’m no philosopher, but I can see that recognizing the good things we have and expressing thanks gives us a proper perspective on everything else in our lives. An attitude of gratitude helps us get out of our own heads, encourages us to think more about what others are going through, and fosters humility as we demonstrate that we can’t take credit for all the good things in our lives.

Are you on board, dad? And then, are your kids on board?

Spend some time as a family this week thinking of things you’re thankful for. Write them all down to get them in front of you. Make a long list. Get your children involved, and demonstrate together that, indeed, there is much for which to be thankful.

And really, shouldn’t we be trying to make gratitude a way of life for our children?

Do they see you modeling gratitude to others? Let your kids join you in thanking others who have blessed your life—the babysitter, teachers and youth sponsors, coaches, and so on.

Could thanksgiving be a regular routine in your home? Maybe you can have a time once a week at dinner where you talk about what you’re thankful for. Or, as you’re driving to basketball practice, ask your kids, “Tell me one thing you’re thankful for today.” Help them get in the habit of thinking about and thanking others who have been good to them.

Also, be generous as a family. Somehow, giving to others will make you more appreciative of what you have. That could mean donating toys or clothes to charities, volunteering to serve others in some way, or any number of other options. As your kids see how much they have compared to others, they will develop their own sense of empathy and gratitude, and experience the joy of blessing others.

What would you add? How do you teach your children to be thankful—during the November holiday and throughout the year? Please leave a comment on our Facebook page.

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