The Mommy Files: Getting Kids to Show Gratitude

by stacie on March 9, 2021

As our older daughter heads into her teenage years, we’re seeing an increase in what I like to call the “I want it now” attitude. And then, to make maters worse, when she gets what she does want, albeit not on her schedule, she’s almost irritated that we’ve finally given it to her.

This does not sit well with me.

And it suits me even less when it involves manual labor (such as the removal of the carpet in her room).

Now, I do realize that some of this is tweenager at its finest…and I remember throwing a few eye rolls of my own when I was approaching 13. But it doesn’t make it any easier to take.

The first paragraph in this article by Charlotte Latvala pretty much sums up how I feel about it…and the very same complaint that I frequently lament to my very own husband. Though her complaint is about preschoolers, I can assure you it doesn’t get any better when they’re older.

So, how do you nip it in the bud? Good question.

Christine Carter, a sociologist and the director of UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Parents program, shares her insight into how to teach your children gratitude instead of entitlement. One of the things she mentions is using family dinners as a way to each share three things that made you happy that day…these would also make great conversation starters.

I appreciate Ms. Carter’s insight, I really do. But I think that—at least in our house—Joan Rigdon’s epiphany will also likely be our saving grace. It seems that sometimes our children can teach themselves the hard lessons…it’s just a matter of how you approach it.

photo credit: chris attack

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  • Sophie

    Wow. To say a picture is worth a thousand words would be an understatement, lol. Such a great choice for this article! We’ve been going through the same phase with our preschooler. Sorry to hear it doesn’t get better anytime soon, but better to be prepared. I must say that I still remember my own eye-rolling at 19 years old. Oh, the joys of karma. :)

  • Ruby T.

    It only seems that kids learn gratitude when they have firsthand experience of someone else who has less than they do. It made a difference, for example, when my child had a play date with a friend at their apartment, while we live in a detached house. That opened up a conversation about the costs of daily living; shelter/food/clothing, etc. It began to fall into place when my child saw that another had less room, less toys, less video games than she did, and realized she just might be lucky to have what she does.

  • Lisa @ Two Bears Farm

    It does start so early on! But when my 5 year old says that he wants something, we just give him opportunities to earn $ by doing various chores, and he can save up if he wants it that badly. Right now he’s saving for a Lego spaceship, which costs $30. He’s been highly motivated - so although it’s only been 3-4 weeks he is almost there!

  • busy kids=happy mom

    Kids are so me-centered. I think when it is modeled to them by their parents, it comes that much faster! It’s as easy as holding the door for someone or clearing off someone else’s plate!

  • Sonia’s Goodie Bags

    My daughter turns into a teenager in April….buckle up, it’s going to be a bumpy ride!

  • Emily (

    My mother has always told me that kids may not always listen to your words, but they will ALWAYS mimic your behavior. My husband and I have always been quick with the thank-you’s and discussions amongst ourselves about how lucky in life we are. I’ve found that my 4.5 yo has picked up the thank-you’s, even for small things. We’re still working on the “gimme’s” of new toys, clothes, etc. It’s so hard at an age where she does get a lot of new things b/c she’s outgrowing clothes, toys & books so quickly.

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