Teaching Children to Be Thankful

I remember one Sunday when our son was four years old, we were walking across the church parking lot after services. A bus worker had just returned from his route and was carrying a bag of candy. He asked our son if he wanted a piece…my son took a piece and the bus worker said, “Now, what do you say?” My son looked at him in a very innocent way and replied, “You got any more?”

Today my son is a very thankful person, and we have laughed about that incident many times.

Of course, we all want our children to be thankful and polite, but how we go about doing that?

• Start young. Even babies can learn to say thank you with the use of baby signs. Whenever your little one hands you something, use a sign…smile and say, “Thank you!”

• Always encourage your child with smiles and hugs, recognizing his use of good manners. Your enthusiastic response will encourage him.

• Be a good role model. If we want our children to say thank you, we need to make sure that we are doing it ourselves.

• Don’t get in the habit of giving commands to children and forget the importance of telling them “thank you” for a completed task.

• Teach your children to send thank you cards for gifts and other acts of kindnesses which they received.

• Teach your children gratitude at the moment– right when it happens – without having to prompt them to do so after the fact. The next time you hand your child something, don’t complete the hand off until you hear a “thank you.” When he looks up at you and wonders why you have not let go…”Say”, “When someone hands you something, it is polite to say ‘thank you’.” The next time, you will probably just need to raise your eyebrows before he remembers to say “Thanks”. The more frequently he practices this, the more his response will become a habit.

• Have your children make a list of everything they are thankful for. Today many children find it difficult to be thankful because all they see is things they don’t have. This should be a big list. If they have trouble coming up with ideas, simply instruct them to look around at their many blessings.

• “Thank you” should be more than words. It is good if a child learns to say “thank you” out of habit, but how much better is it if he learns to say “ thank you” from his heart. To help your children connect their hearts to their words, point out whenever you see thanks in action around you.


“When you clear your place like that, it feels like a ‘thank you’ for dinner.”

“I am doing the shopping for Mrs. Jones, because I was so thankful when someone shopped for me when I was sick.”

“I see a thankful heart in you when you put your brother’s toys back when you were finished playing with them.”

• Study Scriptures together with your children on being thankful. Meditating on God’s Word is a great way for thankfulness to penetrate our hearts.

1 Chronicles 16:34 O give thanks unto the LORD; for He is good; for His mercy endureth for ever.

Psalm 107:8 Oh that men would praise the LORD for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men!