Teaching Children Gratitude  

Being thankful, showing appreciation, and returning kindness are all qualities parents work to instill in their children. Teaching these characteristics of gratitude to young children in their first five years may transform a child’s outlook on life. The holiday season is an ideal time to help young children understand and practice gratitude. 

Demonstrating appreciation for help from others and the basic needs of food, clothing, and a warm bed helps develop a sense of contentment. Grateful children learn to be more sensitive to the needs and feelings of others. Reading stories about thankfulness and gratitude can also bolster school-readiness skills.  

Mary Jane Koehn

“Gratitude helps build stronger relationships with others and improves mental health and overall happiness,” shared Jane Koehn, RN, Bright Start nurse home visitor for the South Dakota Foundation for Medical Care (SDFMC).

Here are ways parents can model and teach gratitude to children: 

  • Be reliable  
  • Say thank you 
  • Make gratitude a habit 
  • Explain to children why you are thankful for them  
  • Express gratitude by mentioning specific actions 
  • Instruct them to express gratitude to those who help them 

Koehn added, “Most importantly, do not forget the impact a parent’s behavior has on children. Kids are always observing how parents behave around others. Set a wonderful example by being nice, giving, and grateful every day!” 

The Bright Start program provides pregnancy and parenting support and education to eligible first-time mothers in South Dakota.  Anyone can complete the Bright Start enrollment form for themself, a friend, a family member, or a neighbor to learn more.  

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