family life, reading life

Cultivating gratitude in our family

Last Saturday, since it was sunny and not-freezing, Kathryn suggested we all bike to the local pizza place for lunch. So we hooked up the wee rides, and took off. Those 3 1/2 miles take us through streets lined by big oak trees, over the canal, with views of the ocean. We passed beach houses of varying shapes and size and newness, and read aloud the fun names most of them had. From the back of our little parade, I hollered up to my family,

“I know we all drive each other crazy sometimes,
but I sure am thankful we get to live here.”

family biking by the beach

Those are the times it’s easy to be thankful. When the weather is gorgeous and fresh sea air surrounds us and we want for nothing and everyone is getting along.

“Contentment is our aim because it doesn’t fluctuate with our circumstances.” -Kristen Welch, Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World

I’ve lived through hard, heart-wrenching times, but I find thankfulness hardest in days of small annoyances. When everyone bickers or the dog digs a hole in the yard and tracks mud across the new rug or the bicycle gets a flat and you have to walk it home… but an attitude of thankfulness can turn that around. I’m working to teach this to my kids — and to not let myself forget what I learned when I started practicing gratitude back in 2010.

Learning (& teaching) gratitude:

During a particularly tough time, I didn’t feel at all thankful — but because I’d learned how powerful gratitude is, I forced myself to list three “thankfuls” each day. Just three, because that seemed do-able even on the hardest days. I’d often do so begrudgingly, and naming that first one was always hardest, but listing those three things would always manage to wedge a tiny crack in a heart that wanted to harden.

For some reason, I hadn’t thought to teach this to my kids until recently, when I realized they were choosing rotten attitudes any time they got in trouble or weren’t getting their way. I spent some time explaining how great thankfulness is, telling them that I kept a journal listing more than one-thousand thankfuls, and I gave examples.

After a day full of particularly bad choices and behavior from my youngest girl, she finally asked to sit by herself to write thankfuls in a notebook — and her attitude turned around for the rest of that day.

turning the tide

1-Naming our thankfuls

Now every night at supper, we take turns naming thankfuls until each of us has said three. At first, the little kids’ were all about things, but now they’ve started including things like “a mama who makes us yummy suppers” or “a big sister who plays with us” or “that daddy works hard at his job for us.” Many days, they ask to keep going past three.

2-Showing gratitude

We also talk about showing gratitude. It has warmed my heart to see how our 6-year-old in particular has taken to this so quickly. He’s the first to thank us for anything we do, anything we give him, even things like washing his bed sheets or letting them play outside. We also talk about how good it is to demonstrate thankfulness along with saying the words.

3-Learning the value of work

Over the years we’ve tried various chore charts and reward systems and all have fizzled out because they’ve been more trouble than they were worth. In this new year, we’ve instituted salaries and jobs for the kids. In short, all three kids take care of their own stuff (making beds, doing or folding their own laundry, etc) plus other chores to help take care of the rest of the household. In exchange, we pay them a salary. What makes this work, in my opinion, is that we cover all necessary expenses for them but since they now have a salary, we do not pay for their “wants.” This has brought up great conversations about the difference in wants vs needs.

After we’ve had this in practice a while longer, I’ll write another post explaining more specifics about how we do this and how it’s working in our home.

4-Sponsoring a child

Keeping perspective is a must for maintaining gratitude. When Ken and I went to Africa, we didn’t even go to any of the poorest parts but it was life changing to see outside the first-world life we live. We haven’t been able to take the kids on a trip like that, but we talk about it and about Ken’s other trips to Mexico and Peru, reminding them that some families live in a house smaller than their bedroom. It’s still an abstract concept for them, but it’s a topic we keep on the table.

Letters from our Compassion kids make it more real. We talk about Lucy’s cow, and why she has a new mosquito net after recovering from a bout of malaria, or about Josphat helping his mother plant their crops. Closer to home, we’re keeping a box we’ll gradually add to each time we buy groceries so we can take it to a nearby food bank each time it gets full; besides helping folks in our town, this reminds us all that food is a need but not something we’re simply entitled to.

5-Modeling it

Oh, y’all. This is the hardest one!

living grateful lives

Overall, I believe I’m a generally positive, thankful person — but oh, golly I struggle sometimes! My kids see and hear when I complain or get cranky, and being aware of this is a good reminder to check my attitude if I don’t want them copying it. There are a hundreds of times a day I can choose to model thankfulness — or not.

As part of the launch team for Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World, I was able to read Kristen Welch’s new book before its release, and it is full of good practical wisdom for parenting outside the norm in our culture. The ideas she writes about echo my own desire for living an authentically grateful life as I teach my kids to do the same; if I wasn’t nodding along as I read, I was jotting down notes to implement in our family — like that salary plan for the kids to help them learn the value of work. I’ll be re-reading it with Ken, and highly recommend it for any parent wanting to overcome the attitude of entitlement so prevalent in our society.

Blog Hop!

Parenting is hard, no doubt about it, so we can all use encouragement. Find more ideas about how parents are #RaisingGratefulKids by visiting the other bloggers in this hop as well:

RGK blog hop

Inspiring an Attitude of Gratitude – by Alison
Rasisng Grateful Kids – by amanda
Why You Can’t Buy Gratitude At The Dollar Store – by Andrea
Missing – Gratefulness in our home – by Ange
Choosing Gratitude – by Angela
Gratefullness – by chaley
5 Steps to Gratitude-Fille Family – by Christa
Practicing Grateful Parenting – by Dana
Sing a Song – by Hannah
Cultivating gratitude in our family – by Jamie
Gratefulness In Our Home – by Jana
Let It Begin With Me – by Jen
Choosing Gratefulness – by Jennifer
Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World – The Book – by jeri
Eradicating Entitlement – What are you rooted in? – by Jessica
Gratefulness in our home – by Kate
The Problem With Entitlement is that it begins with us – by Katelyn
7 Unusual Ways I Know How to Be Grateful – by Kathryn
Raising Grateful Kids – by Keri
How My Children Remind Me to Pray with Gratitude – by Kishona
Grateful – by Kristy
Entitlement: The Ugly Truth of a Beautiful Lie – by Leigha
The Most Important Thing You Can Do To Raise Grateful Kids – by Lindsey
Dear Son: How Do I Teach You To Be Grateful Without Guilt? – by Marie Osborne
Gratitude, A Practical Definition – by Mia
Cultivating Gratitude in Our Home – by Nancy
Learning Gratitude through Chronic Illness – by Rachel
Being Grateful – by Rebecca
I’ve Found Something I Can’t Live Without – by Sarah
The Power of Naming our Gifts – by Sarah
Outfitted – by Sarah Jo
Growing Gratitude in our Family – by Sondra
Teaching Gratefulness – by Stephanie
How Grateful Looks From Here – by Alison
Fighting Entitlement in Children and All of us – by Leah
Entitlement Problem – by Karrie
Grateful Today – by Krystal

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Love your tips on raising grateful little ones. I keep a gratitude journal, and am working hard to teach my toddler thankfulness. Thanks for sharing your story! I loved this book, and have been sharing it with everyone who will listen!


I love this! I pre ordered mine and I can not wait for it to come! We count our gifts too! It’s completely changed my life and now my kids count too!! Hugs

Angela Stricklin

Modeling thankfulness is definitely a struggle here too! Thanks for sharing you story! #RGK

Sarah Jo Burch

Why does it seem like small annoyances are so much harder to overcome with a grateful attitude than big things?
Great list of ideas! <3


“…I find thankfulness hardest in days of small annoyances” — YES! Right there with you!


Great list! I agree that modeling it is the hardest one, but it is definitely the most effective. 🙂

Nancy K

Jamie this spoke straight to me: “…naming that first one was always hardest, but listing those three things would always manage to wedge a tiny crack in a heart that wanted to harden.” I have had those days! They are a lot fewer and farther in between now -yay gratitude! It helps give breath and softens the heart. Thank you for sharing


Love all you have to say about graitude! Miss you all!