By Colleen Brunetti, M.Ed., C.H.C


In honor of Thanksgiving, let’s talk about what the day is really all about. Amongst the family gatherings, amazing food, and the cute handprint turkey drawing on your fridge, a much bigger concept takes center stage. It is the fact that Thanksgiving is a day when we express our thanks, or in other words our gratitude, for all that is good in our lives.

The important thing to remember is that developing and showing gratitude are not traits children are born with. They are learned. While it can be easy to expect our little ones to show a little gratitude for all the things that are done for them, it is, in fact, a developmental skill that takes careful tending.

In short, while Thanksgiving comes just once a year, truly teaching children gratitude takes effort all year round. This effort can be a lot of fun, and very rewarding for the whole family. Here are some tips to get you started:


1) Let your children see you be thankful: As with everything else in you child’s life, you lead the way! Try to model your own gratitude throughout each day. Say “thank you” to the cashier at the store. Thank your spouse or partner when they do something nice for you. Thank your child for picking up toys. And let your child catch you noticing the little things – gratitude for the lovely weather, or gratitude for a polite motorist who shares the road for you. Talk about these things as you notice them so that your child sees you modeling the skills.


2) Teach them they can’t always get what they want: As children get older and more verbal, they can be a bit more insistent on asking for things, especially in the toy isle, from commercials on TV, or what their best friend has piled in their room. Saying no, while explaining gratitude for what they do have, is a powerful message.  It may not be a message they want to hear, and it may be a message you have to repeat often, but it will sink in and be of great value as they grow.


3) Do Household Chores: Children who pitch in around the house are more likely to develop a sense of pride and ownership. It also encourages them to develop gratitude because they are working for what they have (a tidy room, stickers on a chart, an allowance, etc.).  Which leads to # 4.


4) Teach your child to work for what he wants: If there is something special your child wants to have, let him earn it. Create extra chores he can get a little money for, set up an allowance system, guide him as he asks the neighbors if he can rake leaves or walk the dog, etc. If the family has a vacation or special event planned, have your child take part in the saving phase. For instance, set up a lemonade stand with a big sign that says, “I’m saving for Disney!” and watch his sense of ownership, pride, and entrepreneurial spirit blossom.


In our next blog, we’ll talk about ways for your children to express the gratitude they’ve learned to have.


How to Teach Children Gratitude (eHow)
Teaching Children to Be Grateful (

Teaching Gratitude (