guest blog post: instilling gratitude in our children – what worked for our family


Welcome to this week’s edition of #TakeOverTuesday! Today we are joined by Jess. Jess blogs at www.rebelsoulmom.com, is on insta @rebelsoulmom AND she owns her own social media marketing company, JS Creative Strategy. Jess is a working wife and mom, with two adorable kiddos and two fur babies. She is a young cancer survivor who is on a mission to inspire other moms to find the good in every moment and not be ashamed to be who they really are. I hope you enjoy her post as much as I did!

By: Jess @rebelsoulmom

A year ago my husband and I started noticing a lack of gratitude from our then 7-year-old. In fact, it was pretty eye-opening and frustrating for us to see and hear. After one frustrating and final argument with my 7-year-old, I was on Google.

How can I un-spoil my child? No lie – this is EXACTLY what I entered into the Google search bar. This search led me to many articles about instilling gratitude in our children.  While there are many parenting articles about teaching children the art of gratitude – this is not one of them.

Where did the gratitude go?

I’m not really sure it was ever there. To put it bluntly, my husband and I pretty much bought our daughter whatever she wanted. I rationalized it by indirectly blaming my parents.  My 10-year old self will tell you that I grew up hearing “no” all the time. Of course, this was not true. I just didn’t get everything I wanted and it was mainly due to financial constraints. We just wanted to give her everything we didn’t have.

I need to be mama bear for a moment. Our daughter is a sweet, creative and loving little girl. She feels things deeply and is very considerate. She’s an, adore my Mama, Daddy is #1 and Jesus is King type of kid.  However, as we kept spoiling her with material things, her expectations grew and grew. A trip to the mall meant getting some knick-knacks at Justice or a Build-a-Bear, candy and a tall Mocha Chip Frappucino. Yup, I instilled the Starbucks obsession in my daughter.

After my productive Google search, my husband and I had a long conversation. We committed to start pulling back on “YES”. It was months of mindful conversations, teachable opportunities and a few meltdowns before we started seeing a change in her.

Out of all the advice and tips I read, these were the ones that worked for us.

  1. We exposed her to other walks of life. It was a little difficult to find a place that allowed volunteers under 12. Many of the places near me don’t allow children under 13. Thankfully, that same year I volunteered at a holiday store for underprivileged children and families. The families were allowed to pick one big gift and one smaller toy per child. Even though she was not able to volunteer with me, I told her about some the families that I met and how excited the parents were that they were able to have gifts under the tree. Two gifts! I also drove her through other parts of the city to expose her to how others lived. The children playing in the street were happy! Imagine that. The point was to open her eyes to the contentment they had and in turn build her gratitude.
  2. Give Less – We resisted the urge to say “yes”. This was a biggie for us. We would be having a great outing and then the expectation to buy something would come up.  Admittedly, it was easier to say yes just so we could keep the peace and not ruin the day. At least that’s what I thought. Truth is, kids will get over it within 10 minutes. I finally learned to say no while calmly expressing why. If the attitude continued, then we would go home. That simple. Now, she still gets a little upset, but within 10 minutes, we are laughing and talking about something else.
  3. We had to become grateful parents. This was probably one of the best things we did. It was good for us and our daughter. I had to be more mindful of what I said regarding materialistic things. I didn’t NEED to get that $250 handbag. It was about being grateful for the one I had and showing her that it was OK to not have the newest and best handbag. As parents, it is good to focus on the positive. Acknowledging and reinforcing good behavior in our daughter has gone a long way.
  4. Every night we name one thing we are grateful for. I do this one of two ways. At bedtime I’ll either ask her what her favorite part of the day is or I’ll ask her to name one thing that she’s thankful for. Interestingly enough, many times the favorite part of her day was something simple. We do it at night, but you can do this at the dinner table, before bed, or while you are driving in the car. As I’m writing this, I realize that we haven’t been doing this consistently, so I definitely need to get back on track with this one.
  5. When there was opportunity, we talked about it. There are things to be grateful for every hour of every day. Weaving appreciation in our everyday life was something that we weren’t really doing. At least we weren’t vocalizing it. If the weather was perfect, I would say something like, isn’t this the perfect weather to go for a walk! Also, reminding her to say, thank you was a perfect non-direct way of instilling gratitude. We still have to remind her to say thank you, but eventually it will stick. I hope!

It can be discouraging or frustrating when our kids are whining or don’t express gratitude for the things we give them. I know, for us, instilling gratitude in our children is something that we all will continue to work on. Together.


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