Teaching Kids to Be Grateful

How do I instill an attitude of gratitude in my young daughter? I'm concerned about her selfish outlook on life. She recently had a birthday, and as soon as she was finished unwrapping her gifts she started looking around for more! What can I do to correct this?

The answer largely depends on your daughter’s age. Smaller kids – toddlers, preschoolers, and even some children in the lower elementary grades – may be a bit too young to understand ideas like unselfishness and gratitude. They’re still in the process of rounding out their self-concept and grasping what it means to be an individual “self” as distinguished from the rest of the world around them. If your child is only 5 or 6 years old, there’s probably no reason to be overly concerned about her behavior.

Of course, it’s a different matter where older children are concerned. This is where many parents come face to face for the first time with the impact of our materialistic, consumer-driven culture. Advertisers and toy manufacturers aren’t in the business of helping moms and dads teach concepts like contentment and thankfulness. From their perspective, kids are primarily a lucrative sector of the “market,” and they design their advertising campaigns accordingly. As a result, children growing up in our society are conditioned to believe that they’re entitled to have everything they want – right now!

One of the best ways you can counter this mentality is by modeling a grateful and selfless attitude yourself. Actions and example always speak louder than words. As you go through your daily routine, remember to express thankfulness to God on a regular basis – even for simple things like a roof over your head and food on the table. Model gratitude in your relationships with others. Make sure to express thankfulness to friends, relatives, and co-workers, and not just when they do something special for you. Let people know how much you appreciate them just for who they are. While you’re at it, express that kind of unconditional gratitude to your daughter as well.

Another way to help your child develop a grateful heart is by serving others who are less fortunate. Volunteer to serve meals at a local rescue mission. Visit shut-ins at a nursing home. Consider signing up to sponsor a poor child in a third-world country through a ministry like World Vision or Compassion International. This is a wonderful way to increase your entire family’s awareness of God’s goodness and graciousness while getting in touch with the needs of people around the world.

If you need further ideas or additional information, feel free to call and speak with a member of Focus’ Counseling department.


If a title is currently unavailable through Focus on the Family, we encourage you to use another retailer.

Growing Grateful Kids

Raising Unselfish Children in a Self-Absorbed World

Parents’ Guide to the Spiritual Growth of Children

Teaching Kids to Be Grateful 

Teaching Kids to Be Respectful

John Rosemond: Parenting with Love and Leadership

Gimme, Gimme!

You May Also Like