Doreen Wennberg

Giving Thanks Instead of Grumbling, Teaching Kids Gratitude
Thursday, November 9, 2023 by Doreen Wennberg

As the Thanksgiving holiday draws near, hosts are busy getting ready, and making grocery lists for the delicious feast they’ll prepare for guests.

Some might say that Thanksgiving Day has become more about the turkey, the feast of food, parade, and football that we look forward to—while the reason we celebrate has lost its meaning.

There is nothing wrong with all the above traditions that have become associated with the holiday, but remembering roots and teaching children reasons to be thankful—on this particular day and every day is so important.

We can all be prone to grumbling, especially when we’re tired, sitting in traffic, or waiting in line. How we react and respond in those situations speaks loudly to our little audience—our kids.

The Season of Thanksgiving allows us to reflect on being grateful. But how do we teach children gratitude when they may likely be more prone to grumble—especially when they don’t get their way?

Seven ways to help develop gratitude in your kid’s hearts:

1. Pray. Ask for wisdom and lead by example when you thank God in front of them, during meals, and for anything you receive. This helps them learn that not only is God your provider, but you are grateful for his provision.

2. Thank others. For adults, expressions of thanks to others should come naturally, but children still learning need prompts. They benefit from seeing you sincerely thank others. “Allison, thank you so much for getting our mail while we were away— it was such a big help!”

3. Stop grumbling. If we yell, our children will most likely yell. If we grumble in the grocery line, in traffic, or with our spouse, chances are, that our children will too. Ouch! Make a conscious effort not to complain in front of your kids, and ask God to help you display patience and gratitude instead. And if you catch yourself grumbling, apologize and point out what you could have done instead. Our mistakes teach great lessons.

4. Count your blessings. Meal times or bedtimes are a great time to do this together. It is good to remember even the littlest things to be grateful for. Recite 3 to 5 things you were thankful for that day like getting home safely, the lady that helped you in the store, and the sunny day God gave us!

5. Catch them. Whether they think to say thank you on their own or say it with a reminder—praise them! “Jordan, it was nice to hear you thank your coach for his help—I bet that made his day!”

6. Wants and Needs. Most children want everything and do not always grasp the difference between wants and needs. Learning about needs (food, housing, and clothing) vs wants (toys and candy) helps them appreciate what they have or need.

7. Expose them to others less fortunate. Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to let your children experience serving or helping needy people. If your family has an opportunity to serve and see first-hand other people in need, it can impact children and leave a lasting impression.

In an already saturated me society, ungratefulness is an undesirable character trait that we don’t want our children to have. Cultivating a grateful heart takes time. Someday someone may thank you for taking the time to do it!

“Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!” Psalm 100:4 ESV


Thank you for your love and faithfulness and the many gifts you give to us. Forgive us in those moments when we’ve grumbled instead of being thankful. Cultivate within our children a heart of gratefulness that is pleasing to you. Help us model gratitude before them in all that we say and do. ~In Jesus’ Name, Amen


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