A heat shape ornament that says "I am grateful"

Many parents teach gratitude to their children because its expression falls under what would be considered “good manners.” Saying “please” and “thank you” are words we teach children who are barley able to talk. While this is a great reason to teach our kids about gratitude, it’s more of an extrinsic benefit. When we really understand the intrinsic benefits of expressing and feeling gratitude, we will be even more motivated to guide our children towards gratitude practices to increase happiness and joy in life.

Defining Gratitude

Gratitude is a genuine, self-generated feeling of thankfulness that emerges from one’s core being. Intrinsic gratitude is not dependent on receiving favors or material possessions; instead, it stems from an inherent recognition of the value of every moment. It’s an authentic expression of reverence for the inherent beauty and wonder.

Benefits of Gratitude

Positive Emotions

Gratitude is inherently linked to positive emotions. When you feel grateful, you experience emotions like joy, contentment, and happiness. These positive emotions contribute to an overall sense of well-being and life satisfaction.

Improved Mental Health

Studies have shown that practicing gratitude can lead to reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety. Expressing gratitude shifts the focus away from negative thoughts and can help individuals cope with stress and adversity more effectively.

Stable Relationships

Gratitude can strengthen relationships because it encourages you to recognize and appreciate the contributions and support of others. When you express gratitude towards someone, it fosters a sense of connection and reciprocity, which can lead to healthier and more fulfilling relationships.

Increased Resilience

Gratitude can enhance resilience by helping you reframe challenging situations in a more positive light. People who are grateful are often better able to find silver linings in difficult circumstances and bounce back from setbacks.

Better Physical Health

Research suggests that practicing gratitude may have physical health benefits, including:

  • Improved sleep
  • Reduced blood pressure
  • A stronger immune system

Increased Life Satisfaction

Gratitude is associated with greater life satisfaction and a more positive outlook on life. When individuals focus on what they are grateful for, they tend to have a more optimistic perspective and a greater sense of fulfillment.


Gratitude encourages mindfulness and being present in the moment. It helps individuals appreciate the here and now, fostering a greater sense of contentment and happiness in everyday life.

Generosity and Altruism

Grateful individuals are often more inclined to engage in acts of kindness and generosity. Giving to others and helping those in need can bring a deep sense of happiness and purpose.

How NOT to Teach Our Kids About Gratitude

Gratitude as Obligation

Teaching kids that gratitude is a duty, not a choice, uses guilt to motivate. When gratitude is portrayed as an obligation, it may lead to children expressing thanks out of a sense of duty rather than genuine appreciation. This can foster resentment and insincerity and ultimately deter kids from developing a true understanding of gratitude as an authentic and voluntary emotion.

Punishing Ungratefulness

Implementing punishments when your kids don’t express gratitude can have negative consequences. Why? Because it can make your kids feel pressured to express thanks, leading to insincerity or resistance. Gratitude should ideally be a voluntary and heartfelt expression, not something children feel coerced into.

A child shares a beautiful orange flower.

Fun Ways To Teach Your Children About Gratitude

Remember, teaching your children about gratitude doesn’t have to revolve around guilt! Here are some ways to help your child experience gratitude without being lectured:

Gratitude Journal

Encourage your child to keep a gratitude journal where they write down things they are thankful for daily. Decorate the journal with colorful stickers or drawings to make it visually appealing. If your kids are too young to write, have them fill the journal with pictures of things they are grateful for instead.

Thankful Tree

Create a thankful tree on a wall or poster board. Each day, children can add a leaf with something they’re grateful for. Over time, the tree will blossom with their expressions of gratitude. One year, our family pulled out our Christmas Tree early and decorated it with leaves that had things were were grateful for written on them.

Gratitude Scavenger Hunt

Organize a scavenger hunt where children search for items or experiences they’re grateful for. This can be done indoors or outdoors and can be a team or solo activity.

Thank You Cards

Have your kids create handmade thank you cards for family members, friends, or teachers. Encourage them to express their gratitude through drawings and messages.

Gratitude Jar

Set up a gratitude jar where your kids can drop notes of things they’re thankful for. Once a week, or at a special family time, read these notes aloud to celebrate the expressions of gratitude.

Acts of Kindness

Encourage your kids to perform acts of kindness for others, like making breakfast for a family member or helping a friend with their homework. Discuss the positive feelings that come from helping others.

Gratitude Stones

Collect smooth stones and have children paint or decorate them with things they’re grateful for. They can keep these gratitude stones as a tangible reminder.

Gratitude Playlist

Create a playlist of songs that promote gratitude and play it during family car rides or as background music during activities. We like to create playlists for doing puzzles together.

Volunteer Together

Get involved in volunteer activities as a family. Children can learn about gratitude by helping those in need and witnessing the impact of their actions.

Gratitude Walk Or Hike

Take your kids on a gratitude walk or hike where you notice things to be thankful for. I love taking my kids for a short hike on Thanksgiving morning to help them appreciate how beautiful the world is.

The words "practice gratitude daily" on sticky notes.

Long Term Effects of Gratitude

The long term effects of gratitude can be a great motivator for you to teach your kids and practice gratitude daily:

Improved Mental Health

Gratitude has been linked to reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety. People who regularly express gratitude tend to have a more positive outlook on life, lower levels of stress, and improved overall mental well-being.

Enhanced Emotional Resilience

Practicing gratitude helps individuals develop emotional resilience, making them better equipped to cope with life’s challenges and setbacks. It can lead to a greater ability to bounce back from adversity.

Better Physical Health: Grateful individuals tend to engage in healthier behaviors. They may be more likely to exercise, eat well, and seek medical care, leading to better physical health. Studies have shown that gratitude can have positive effects on cardiovascular health and immune function.

Final Thoughts

Let’s make being grateful a joyful practice for our children! When we find ways to teach our kids gratitude without lecturing, it will become something they do and experience more naturally.

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