An Attitude of Gratitude

mother holding son at preschool

Gratitude Tree.  Set up a branch in pot of rocks, construction or cardstock paper leaf cutouts, pens, and a hole punch and string.  Help your child daily write down one thing they are grateful for, then hang the “leaf” on the tree! Read through them on Thanksgiving.

Say Thank You.  Look for ways to appreciate or thank the people around you!  Don’t just give a rote “thank you” but be specific.  “Thank you for cleaning up your toys without asking!” “Thank you for cooking dinner for us tonight!”

Bed or Mealtime Thanks.  Before eating or going to sleep, ask your child for one thing they were grateful for that day, then share your own.

Thank You Notes.  Write a thank you note to a teacher, a doctor, a friend, a cashier, a waitress, a house cleaner – find someone who does their job well, someone who is overlooked or underappreciated, and thank them!  Have your child draw a picture on the front of the card if they are not yet old enough to write a note.  Enclose a $5-$10 gift card in the thank you note as an extra special thank you.


When your child receives birthday or Christmas gifts, let him know that before he gets to play with or use the item, he needs to write a thank you note to the giver.  If he is too young to write, have him draw a picture instead.  Or if texting is your thing, record your child saying thank you and send it to the giver.

Write thank you notes to one another.  Make it a family practice to leave a sticky note of appreciation in lunch boxes, briefcases, purses, on mirrors and on steering wheels!

Surprise Gifts! Don’t wait for Christmas or birthdays to give gifts.  Buy a small, thoughtful gift for your family member when they are least expecting it!  Involve your child in the shopping or wrapping!

Give to a Cause.  Sponsor a child across the world who lives in poverty.  Give to a project, like clean water or education.  If local is your thing, take them shopping for Toys for Tots or organizations like VEAP, the food shelf or the Children’s Hospital.  Get your child involved by encouraging them to write notes, or raise money to donate by doing chores around the house or baking and selling treats. 

Donate Your Time.  Some organizations allow young children to volunteer alongside a parent.  Packing or serving meals, cleaning up trash in a park or your neighborhood, make a meal and drop it off for a family in need or unwell, rake up an elderly neighbor’s leaves.

picking up trash at the beach

Drive-Through: Act of Kindness.  Pay for the person in the line behind you at the drive through and involve your child by saying, “Let’s surprise the person behind us by paying for their food!  Don’t you think that will make them feel happy?” 

Look For the Silver Lining.  If something doesn’t go according to plan, make a practice of pointing out the positive.

Redirect The Green Monster.  When envy comes knocking, redirect your child.  “I’m so happy for your friend, that they got to go to the waterpark!  That must have been so much fun!  Do you remember when we went to ______?  We had such a good time!”  “I’m happy for your friend, that she got what she wanted for her birthday!  Do you remember what you got on your birthday last year?  You’ve had so much fun playing with that gift!”

Hold Back the Spending.  Buying your child whatever they want, whenever they want, contributes to a need for instant gratification and a discontent with what they already have.  Minimize impulse buying so they are not too overwhelmed to enjoy what they have.  If they ask for something, say, “I’d love to give that to you. Do you want to add it to your birthday wish list, and once your birthday is closer you can decide if that’s what you really want?”

Encourage Your Child to Contribute.  Is there something your child really wants, and sooner than a birthday?  Give them some chores to do and pay them for it.  After they’ve earned enough money, take them to the store so they can buy the object.  The joy and pride that comes from waiting, working, then buying, will foster greater appreciation for the object!