10 Tips for Raising Grateful Kids

by Roxi Nevin


“Gratitude is not only the greatest of the virtues, but the parent of all of the others.”   – Cicero


All parents wonder if they’re making the right choices when parenting their kids. We all question ourselves and hope that when we make mistakes, they won’t be mistakes that impact our children’s futures. Though there are plenty of books out there to help us on our parenting journey, there’s no “guidebook” that tells us all the little things that no one expects – because with kids, there’s no limit to what their imaginations will come up with, and no book on earth could cover all the various ways kids challenge us as parents.


As many of my readers know, I constantly tell people “I’m not trying to raise good kids, I’m trying to raise good adults”, and my meaning behind this can often be confusing to some people. What I mean is, my parenting tactics are not solely focused on correcting behaviors that people see as “misbehavior” or “acting out”. I don’t want my kids to just appear “good” in public.


My parenting tactics look at the big picture. What kind of people do I want them to be? How do I want them to behave as adults? Because the things kids learn now, between the ages of 4 and 14, pave the way to who they truly become as adults. So when I am disciplining or teaching them, I’m doing so with that big picture in mind. I don’t want my kids to listen because they’re afraid of what the consequences might be. I want them to listen because it’s respectful.


I don’t want them to make their choices based on how others might respond or think of them, I want their choices to be based on what is right. I want them to be kind, and respectful, and generous, and thoughtful, and the best way to make that happen is to raise them with kindness, and respect, generosity, gratitude, and thoughtfulness. Who they are to become is reliant on how we as parents treat them throughout their childhood.


So here are my tips for raising grateful kids.


  1. Treat a child as though he already is the person he is capable of becoming “ Haim Ginott – Self-fulfilling prophecy is a very real thing. We become what we believe we will be. If you are a constantly negative person, you will be surrounded by negativity. And vice versa. Make sure your kids know they ARE grateful people and praise them when they show gratitude.


  1. Teach them to look for silver linings – always look for the positive side of everything. Even when something is bad, point out something good about the situation. There is ALWAYS a silver lining of some kind to be found. Find it, and help your children find it in every negative situation you are faced with. Focusing on silver linings is about having a posture of gratitude even when–especially when–things aren’t going well.


  1. Make gratitude a ritual – Find ways to show your kids how to express gratitude every single day. At dinner time ask “what were you most grateful for today?”. During games, ask them what they are most grateful for in the game. At bedtime ask them how they showed gratitude to someone else that day.


  1. Limit Praise – “Excessive praise doesn’t make kids grateful. It makes them less motivated, more self-centered, and entitled.” When you praise every single thing a child does, it can undermine your efforts to instill habitual gratitude in them. So instead, praise the effort they put into things they do. Tell them you’re proud of how hard they worked on something. Tell them you’re impressed by how they handled something. But limit the amount of praise you give them for things that they have no control over, such as their looks. Giving praise for effort and accomplishments is always a good thing.


  1. Limit bribery – Bribery is a very useful tool in parenting. I myself have to remind myself to be cautious with using it. The more often you use bribery to encourage a child to do something, the less grateful they will be for getting those things when they happen naturally. If you’re not careful, creating a habit of using bribery will cause kids to expect something in return for doing anything you ask them to do. This can cause long-term issues for adults, especially in the workplace.


  1. Be a model – No, not the fashion kind. Kids may not always appear to be listening or watching, but they are very good at paying attention to all the little things you don’t think they’re paying any attention to at all. BE the grateful person you want them to be. If you show them examples of gratitude from you, they will mimic the same behaviors.


  1. Say “thanks”! – Make it a habit to thank them constantly for regular things. “Thank you for putting your bowl in the sink after breakfast!”, “Thank you for putting your game away”, “Thanks for being a good listener”. The more you thank them for doing things they’ve done that are good, the more they will develop their own feelings of thankfulness for the little things around them, and feel more comfortable expressing it.


  1. Give something up – People get used to living a certain way, and when that way of life is disrupted it can be very hard to learn to cope with the loss of something you’re used to having. By instilling a regular “fasting” routine in your family, you teach them early on how to appreciate things more. Appreciation and gratitude go hand in hand. Once a month, pick something your family will give up for a pre-determined amount of time. (This can vary by family and what works best for yours). Maybe you can live without pizza delivery for a month. Or maybe give up electronics for a week. Figure out a plan that works for your family for this “fasting” routine, and choose what to give up together and the amount of time you will be giving it up.



  1. Create a family “service day” once a month. Pick a day each month for the entire family to do something as an act of service to someone else or the community. There are hundreds of volunteer opportunities in every city. Pick a different service or group each month and not only do you get to show your kids how great it is to volunteer in their communities, but you help someone out in the process! The gratitude they see from others towards their help can make them feel proud of themselves and truly grateful for the opportunity.


  1. Pay it forward – Each payday we pick a place to go for a treat or a bite to eat, and then pay for the person behind us in line. This works in the drive-thru, or at the counter. You can do it anonymously or openly. You can pay for just one customer, or several, whatever works for your family! Let your kids see you being generous to complete strangers “for no reason” and you’ll see them very quickly figure out the reason on their own.




Roxi Nevin has worked in the support, On-Demand learning, and marketing departments for the International Institute for Learning for seven years. She is also the administrator of operations for the Center for Grateful Leadership. With an educational background in History, Psychology, Business administration and the tech sector, and a previous professional background in political action, her writings based on these broad experiences of topics in these areas have been published in various online publications and blogs. She currently writes a monthly column called Grateful Parenting. She enjoys cooking, painting, and photography in her spare time.