Kid Connection Tip: Sharing & Showing Gratitude

Posted May 21, 2015 by jimhigley

Gratitude rock

“Remember to say ‘thank you!'”

If you’re a parent, you’ve no doubt shared those reminding words hundreds and hundreds of times with your children. And you should. Manners matter.

But they are just part of it.

For me, at the foundation of manners is raising a child who understands what gratitude is. Children who connect with the emotional side of thankfulness. Children who are aware of the fact that they aren’t – and no one is – the center of the universe.

And that life is an endless cycle of giving and receiving. Both ends of the spectrum having value.

But how do you teach children gratitude?  

As a parent, I think we teach gratitude every day by modeling it. Don’t we? We show it and explain it by letting our children witness and experience how we treat others. We talk about how we feel – in an age-appropriate way. And we help them bridge the emotional gap between “saying thank you” and “feeling and showing gratitude” in our daily lives.

Your teacher has been so nice to come in early every day this week to help you with your math studies. She didn’t have to do that – and I know she had to get up extra-early to do that. What do you think you could do to show her how much that means to you?

Did you know your coach has been coaching kids for ten years! That’s a long time and it means she’s probably missed a lot of dinners with her own family! Why do you think she keeps coaching? How could you show her that you appreciate all that she does?

Perhaps the most important way we teach our children gratitude is to share it with them personally. And share our gratitude for them.  It’s really not complicated. But – for some of us – it requires a little focus and discipline.

  • We can show our kids gratitude simply by the way we react when they walk in the room. For years I’ve focused on the simple act of smiling when my children walk in the room. Or by stopping what I’m doing for 3 seconds to send them a signal that I’m grateful for their presence;
  • I try to say more than, “thank you” to them. I share how whatever act of kindness or thoughtfulness they’ve extended to me made me feel. I purposefully try to make that connection for them;
  • I make sure I express my view of myself and my family in the context of a bigger Universe – with a very clear expression of my own personal gratitude for the goodness in my life;
  • I make sure that they know that beyond loving them, I am grateful for them. And despite the craziness they sometimes bring to my life, that I am abundantly aware of how empty my life would be without them. In doing this, I not only show my own gratitude, I remind them that they are people of value.

And the irony of all of this – this focus on family-based gratitude – is that it brings us closer together by daily reinforcing who we are to each other.

Good manners? Certainly important.

But for me it’s gratitude that goes a long, long way.


This memory is part of a series of stories I’m sharing during the months of May and June – highlighting the importance of connecting with our children. These memories are brought to you by the wonderful folks at Kimberly-Clark who have compensated me for my writing. All opinions are my own. 

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