Teach Your Kids to be Truly Thankful – Bethel Church and Ministries

Teach Your Kids to be Truly Thankful


From the time our kids can speak, we teach them to say those two polite words, thank you. When they have a birthday party, we tell them to say thank you after they open each gift. When their sibling shares a toy with them we ask, “What do you say?” Thank you. Perhaps they just went trick or treating, and at each house you asked, “Did you say thank you?” Hearing them say these two words gives us such great accomplishment or satisfaction. We tend to think if our kids can say thank you they will grow up to be nice people.

Kids are often taught an attitude of entitlement and not thankfulness. Maybe they think the server at the restaurant should get their food because that’s their job. Or even more close to home, you, their parents should buy them lots of Christmas presents because that is what parents do. Teaching them to be thankful in the big and small things is often a challenge.

So, how do we help our kids know that these are more than just words? How do we teach them to say thank you with their words but also mean it with their hearts? How does thankfulness become part of who they are and how they live their lives? I propose to you some ways to help our kids see thankfulness as more than just two magic words. Perhaps these things ring true in your own life and helped you see thankfulness. Or perhaps they will also help you to examine your heart of thankfulness.


Kids learn most things, good and bad, by example. They have the best little eyes and ears that see and hear everything. They walk like us, talk like us, eat like us, and so much more! So first consider yourself—are you truly thankful?

  • Be an example in your talk. Look for teachable moments to show your kids your thankfulness. As adults, we are so often frivolous in the way we show thankfulness. We go through our busy life moving from one thing to the next. Take some time and be thankful.
  • Be an example in your actions. The old saying, “Do as I say, not as I do,” meaning don’t imitate my behavior, but obey my instructions, doesn’t work. It’s so much easier to give our kids instructions on how to be thankful than to show them. As adults, we often think we have worked hard so we deserve something. As Christians, we know that we ultimately deserve death. But God, in his love, gave us life. Romans 5:8 declares, “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (ESV). Let’s live out our thankfulness looking through the eyes of the hope we have in Christ.


In 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 it says, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Being thankful in ALL circumstances is difficult. The world around us seems to be shutting down again. Let’s be real—we dislike COVID! But isn’t it often the hard circumstances that really develop a sense of thankfulness in us? How can we still display thankfulness in hard circumstances? How will our kids remember your thankfulness in ALL circumstances?


Like most things, we have to exercise, or do them often, to make them part of our life. Your body doesn’t get stronger without physical exercise. Your mind doesn’t get stronger without mental exercise. And thankfulness is no exception. A child must exercise a heart of thankfulness to get one. I often think that David tried to exercise thankfulness as the Psalms are filled with verses on giving thanks. Psalm 9:1 says, “I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.” Perhaps this Thanksgiving you can recount all of God’s wonderful deeds with your kids.

Here are some practical ways to help your kids exercise thankfulness:

  • On the nights you eat dinner together, go around the table and share what you are thankful for and why from that day. Make this a family tradition that may last for generations.
  • Start a thankful board or box in your home. Write down things to be thankful for and put them on the board or in the box. Keep it out all year long and talk about it often.
  • Write some thank you notes to others. Write them not just for things that people have done for you, but for everyday people like the grocery store clerk that you see often, or the neighbor who you have lived near for a long time. Let them know you appreciate them.
  • In all circumstances, talk about how you can be thankful. When circumstances change in your family, keep talking about how to be thankful.
  • Memorize Scriptures that talk about thankfulness. Perhaps start in the book of Psalms and go through all the verses that mention thankfulness.
  • Do a thankfulness book each year together, or separately, if your kids are older. This will be a great thing to look at in years to come.
  • Write notes of thankfulness to your kids. Let them know why you are thankful for them.

As you strive to teach your kids to be thankful this Thanksgiving, let this holiday be a starting point and continue it all year long. Don’t just be thankful on this holiday.

As you teach them what to be thankful for, always point them to God, the giver of all things. And don’t forget to preach the gospel to yourself every day! This will change your perspective and cause you to have a thankful heart.