Children and Money

How to Develop a Gratitude Mindset in Kids

How To Develop a Gratitude Mindset in Kids | www.TheHeavyPurse.comThanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. I love gathering with family and friends and giving thanks together over a delicious meal. I also don’t believe gratitude only belongs to one day. In my home, gratitude is a daily practice.

Go From Entitled to Grateful in 3 Easy Steps

It’s very easy to get caught up in our own problems and lose sight of how fortunate or blessed we truly are. When I find myself grumbling underneath my breath about #firstworldproblems, I immediately stop complaining and instead focus my attention on gratitude. It’s amazing how that little switch can change your perspective. I also want my girls to adopt a gratitude mindset, rather than feel entitled to all the things they have. This is how I have helped them do so.

Acknowledge Your Good Fortune

I always tell my girls we are “lucky duckies”. Granted, if your kids are older, you probably can’t use that phrase without them rolling their eyes at you, but the sentiment remains. We are lucky. We have a nice house, a warm bed to sleep in and plenty of food, which unfortunately not every child has. So I make a point to gently remind the girls of this. For example, after we put away groceries, I’ll look at our restocked fridge and say, “We are so fortunate to have such good food in our fridge.” Or when we dine out, I’ll say, “It’s so nice that we can enjoy a meal at our favorite restaurant together.”

I don’t roll out a red carpet and shout “Ta-da” and expect the girls to clap their hands at their good fortune but instead I model an abundant mindset every day. True gratitude doesn’t need applause but simple recognition for the ordinary things we may take for granted, such as a full fridge and a meal out. We are “lucky duckies” and I want my girls to know regardless of what else is going on in our lives, we have so much to be grateful for and we acknowledge our good fortune.

Share Your Money, Time and Things

I firmly believe sharing enriches our lives. While the girls share their money through their annual share goals, they are now starting to volunteer as well. Additionally, we adopt a family every Christmas and I try to choose a family with girls close to same age as my own. Lauren and Taylor will pick out clothes and toys they want to share with the girls from their own closets and toys chests. They are old enough where I bring them along when we deliver the gifts. They love meeting the family and giving the gifts to them in person.

Sharing didn’t always come easy to them, but after they experienced firsthand how good it felt to share and saw how much joy they could bring into someone else’s lives, they were hooked. It feels great watching them give so willingly and generously. They love sharing now. It’s helped them appreciate how much they have and replace feelings of entitlement with gratitude.

Appreciate What Others Have While Honoring What You Have

Too often we compare our lives to others and find our lives lacking in comparison. This can fuel our need to keep up with the Joneses and start living beyond our means. I don’t want my kids to live this way.

I try to replace feelings of envy with appreciation because there will always be people who have more than we do. When we went on vacation this summer, the girls and I were invited to watch a movie at the cabin of one of their new friends. Their cabin was gorgeous, easily three times larger than our own with a beautiful wrap-around porch. My youngest wondered why our cabin wasn’t as luxurious. Before I could even answer, her big sister told her, “I am so happy that they have such a beautiful cabin and were willing to share it with us. We made a decision when we booked the cruise based on what we wanted to spend on this trip, and I love our cabin!”

I was so proud of Lauren’s response. She got it. Instead of being envious of her friend’s good fortune, she was happy for her and also happy for herself. She knew the trip represented the achievement of the largest family goal we had ever set together. We saved for two years for our Disney Cruise and chose to spend our money on private land excursions because exploring new places meant more to us than having a bigger cabin. We made sure the girls understood our the choices before we ever set sail, which helped Lauren appreciate her friend’s cabin while still feeling the satisfaction of honoring our family goal. She didn’t let her friend’s good fortune diminish her own good fortune, which so many of us do.

Be Grateful This Thanksgiving and Every Day

Creating a gratitude mindset in kids is very important. It can help prevent them from comparing their lives to others and feeling a need to keep up or exceed their friends’ lifestyles. My girls appreciate the gifts of our hard work and see us use our money on what matters most to us, which they are doing as well. And that is something I am thankful for this holiday season and every day.

Shannon

Image courtesy of Shannon Kringen via Flickr.

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November 18, 2013  •  66 Comments  •  Children and Money

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  1. Monday, November 18th, 2013
    I love this! What an important and beautiful lesson to teach children. I totally agree that it is important for both adults and kids to be grateful for what we have. A few months ago I wanted to become more mindful of this, so I made a promise that I would spend some time every day thinking of what I am grateful for. And you know what? It has made a big difference in my frame of mind. Like your girls, I am now much more likely to think in terms of what I am grateful for and not focus quite as much on what I don't have. Thanks for the great post!
    • Shannon
      Monday, November 18th, 2013
      Thanks, Dee! Kids are surrounded by consumerism and it's incredibly easy for them to fall to prey to always wanting and comparing their lives to others. Gratitude is a way to help give me them perspective, just as it does for me. I'm glad you started your own gratitude practice. It truly makes a difference!
  2. Monday, November 18th, 2013
    A couple of months ago I started a daily habit of writing down 3 things that I'm grateful for. I love it because it starts every day with a thankful feeling and makes me more aware throughout the day that I really am very lucky. I think gratitude is one of the most important components of living a happy life, and I think the way you've chosen to teach it to your daughters is outstanding.
    • Shannon
      Monday, November 18th, 2013
      I agree, Matt - gratitude is a must when it comes to living a happy life. I'm so glad you have your own gratitude practice and starting the day with it just sets the right tone.
  3. Monday, November 18th, 2013
    I am certainly not a perfect parent but this is one area where I think I'm doing well. My four-year-old appears to be grateful for everything. She is always saying thank you for even the smallest things. It makes me so proud!
    • Shannon
      Monday, November 18th, 2013
      I love it, Holly! It sounds like your daughter already have a gratitude mindset and it's fantastic that she appreciates everything she receives. I would be proud of her too. :)
  4. Monday, November 18th, 2013
    Great post Shannon! I think gratitude is such a good attitude to have, though not always the easiest to live out. That said, living it out practically to kids is so important and giving them opportunities to do so will only help them.
    • Shannon
      Monday, November 18th, 2013
      Thanks, John! Very true, some days it's harder to feel gratitude. Thankfully those days are rare. :) Yes, the girls seeing me embrace gratitude and sharing has really helped them do the same, which makes me very proud!
  5. Monday, November 18th, 2013
    These are really good tips, and one thing I'm really worried about as far as having kids is that they will be spoiled and not grateful for the things they have. It sounds like your kids "get it" and I hope mine will one day as well!
    • Shannon
      Monday, November 18th, 2013
      I certainly understand your concerns, DC. The good news is kids learn so much by observation so if they observe you be grateful and appreciate what you have, it will help them do the same. I have no doubt your future kids will "get it" too!
  6. Monday, November 18th, 2013
    Excellent post! When I find myself feeling down about things I turn it around and remind myself of all the things we are fortunate and grateful to have. Just as you said, a warm house, plenty of food, and I add, our health. I believe that good health is the most important thing to be thankful for.
    • Shannon
      Monday, November 18th, 2013
      I agree, Sicorra! Health is so important and I am certainly grateful that our family is healthy. It's easy to get down but when I start thinking about all the things I have, it really makes a difference.
  7. Monday, November 18th, 2013
    Can I just say Shannon, that your posts are awesome! Seriously :) Your daughters sure are lucky to have you as their mommy!
    • Shannon
      Monday, November 18th, 2013
      Oh, Mackenzie! Thank you for your kind words, I truly appreciate them! I think I'm pretty darn fortunate to Lauren and Taylor's mommy and I hope they feel the same about me!
  8. Monday, November 18th, 2013
    Your girls are better than I am ;) I really struggle with that last one. I have to remind myself that gratitude is much more useful (and pleasant) than jealousy.
    • Shannon
      Monday, November 18th, 2013
      I think that one is the hardest, Stefanie. It's so easy to compare our lives to others and sometimes feel that pang of jealously when we see others have things we want. It definitely takes practice but after awhile it becomes more second nature, especially when you have our own goals to work towards.
  9. Monday, November 18th, 2013
    Aww, Lauren's response was amazing - that must have been music to your ears! It's uplifting to see kids with gratitude attitudes versus entitlement. I sometimes see really demanding kids at stores, so it's nice to read that not all "youth of today" are like that. You are an amazing mom, Shannon! :)
    • Shannon
      Monday, November 18th, 2013
      Thanks so much Anna! I had to hide my happy dance. :) Yes, I see lots of entitled kids too and I don't want my girls to fall into that group either. Once they got into the habit of sharing their money, it was a natural next step to gratitude, which they have really begun to embrace.
  10. Monday, November 18th, 2013
    That is a fantastic way to raise them. In my house we were reminded that we were lucky only when we had crossed the entitlement line, like when we wouldn’t eat our food, with a “some people are starving, you have food, eat”. That just led to a shrug, which wasn’t good. When you remind them every day, they know it is a truly good thing.
    • Shannon
      Monday, November 18th, 2013
      Thanks, Pauline! I agree that it needs to be something they every day. And I also make a lot of remarks on how lucky we are and don't necessarily need a response from them. I just want them to see and hear me being grateful every day. Sharing their money has really opened their eyes to how they can help and understand how fortunate they are.
  11. Monday, November 18th, 2013
    This is something I'm really focused on with our kids. I've seen so many children in my years of education be so ungrateful for what they have been given. Sharing and giving both play a huge role in producing gratitude. And there are so many community programs around during the holidays...it's easy to find one and get our kids involved helping others.
    • Shannon
      Monday, November 18th, 2013
      I can imagine you've seen quite the spectrum from grateful to very entitled kids. There are so many wonderful community programs and organization where kids can help out. The holidays are the perfect time to get them involved. I know my girls look forward to buying gifts and sharing some of their own things with the family we adopt.
  12. Monday, November 18th, 2013
    One of my favorite sayings is "Happy people are not thankful....thankful people are happy." This is the perspective I try to teach to my kids. :)
    • Shannon
      Monday, November 18th, 2013
      Love that, Travis! I'm going to borrow it! :) It's very true and a great perspective to teach your kids.
  13. Monday, November 18th, 2013
    Great tips! I can't wait to implement these ideas with my little one (only 4 months now). My wife and I definitely think it is important to instill the value of money and gratitude in our kids. The spoiled and ungrateful kids I see sometimes really irk me. I'll be re-reading your posts when the time comes!
    • Shannon
      Monday, November 18th, 2013
      Thanks, Andrew! I agree teaching kids about money and gratitude go hand-in-hand. A lot of money problems stem from people wanting to keep up with the Joneses and buying things to feel happy. If we learn to focus on what matters most to us and appreciate what we have and accomplish, we're in a great place.
  14. Monday, November 18th, 2013
    I remember reading about your adopt a family tradition when we connected around this time....hey happy anniversary!

    I'm always reminding the kids how blessed we are and that we need to be a blessing to others. Like you said, we should live everyday like it's Thanksgiving.

    I've seen my share of entitled teens my goodness it's just an ugly site to see. I just don't know why parents don't take the time to teach them important values like gratitude and showing acts of kindness to others...sad.

    Thanks for sharing suggestions! Hope you're having a great Monday night!
    • Shannon
      Monday, November 18th, 2013
      Yes, it was around this time of year! Wow! It's been great getting to know you this past year, Corina. :) I think most entitled kids see their parents act that way. That's why it's so important for me that the girls see me be appreciative of our great life together. I know we are blessed and I definitely don't take it for granted. I don't want them to either. Have a great evening, Corina!
  15. Monday, November 18th, 2013
    I don't want to be the parent who insists on cleaning your plate because there are "kids starving in Africa," but I certainly want my daughter to be grateful. I think she gets it a lot of the time, but then when she says something like "I'll just ask Granny for that," I wonder if I am getting the point across!
    • Shannon
      Tuesday, November 19th, 2013
      I'm sure you're getting your point across as I know how you take the time to explain to her how you use your money. She just also knows she has her grandparents wrapper around her fingers. :)
  16. Tuesday, November 19th, 2013
    What a great lesson! I hope to pass down the same values to my daughters. We all forget sometimes how truly luck we are.
    • Shannon
      Tuesday, November 19th, 2013
      Thanks, Anthony! It's very easy to forget how we fortunate we are unless we make it a priority. I hope your girls embrace gratitude the way my girls have! :)
  17. Tuesday, November 19th, 2013
    Great post! There is nothing worse than an entitled person. I think of people who "have it all," like Kanye West, but hit lack of appreciation and humility make him the biggest a-hole and seemingly unhappy person on the planet. This may be a gross exaggeration but lack of gratitude and appreciation does lead to an unhappy life. It's hard to walk around all day saying, "I'm thankful for this and thankful for that," but taking a moment once a day to look around and see what you DO have is really important!
    • Shannon
      Tuesday, November 19th, 2013
      Thanks, Tonya! It's so fascinating how many celebrities have become so entitled and arrogant, even though many of them grew up with very little. You would think they would be full of gratitude! It's really sad. I agree - a few minutes out of my day to think about my many blessings is easy to do and really makes a difference.
  18. Tuesday, November 19th, 2013
    What a great post! Your daughters are "lucky duckies" to have a mom like you!

    Recently, at church, we had a guest minister from Nigeria. He preached about how in Africa, it is not polite to say "thank you." If you say "thank you," it means that you are not honoring the person's gift or time as a gift from the heart. It also means that you are ending the "giving and thankful" cycle. Hearing that idea has really made me think of how I could show gratitude besides the words "thank you."
    • Shannon
      Tuesday, November 19th, 2013
      Thank you, Michelle! It's very sweet of you to say that. :) I love learning about different cultures and it's interesting to learn how thank you is viewed differently in other countries. But I can see how "thank you" and "you're welcome" could signal the end of the giving and thankful cycle. Thanks for sharing and stopping by, Michelle!
  19. Tuesday, November 19th, 2013
    I don't have any children but I have met a lot of kids who are very ungrateful. Its sad to see. I wish they would teach manners more in school.
    • Shannon
      Tuesday, November 19th, 2013
      Unfortunately there are some kids who don't have a sense of gratitude. I often think they are mimicking what they see at home. It's one of the many reasons why I emphasize gratitude. I want my girls to understand they need to work hard and appreciate the things they have.
  20. Wednesday, November 20th, 2013
    It's beyond critical to raise children to have grateful mentalities. I think of how horribly entitled I could've turned out if my parents didn't instill the same values you're passing down to your girls.

    My family also did the "adopt a family" at Christmas and trust me, your daughters will never forget those experiences.

    I love that Lauren already understands the value of money and setting priorities. They'll both be beautifully setup for success in the future.
    • Shannon
      Thursday, November 21st, 2013
      Agreed, Erin! There is a fine line between giving your children a good life and creating feelings of entitlement. No one should feel guilty because they can give their kids nice things but it should be balanced with gratitude and appreciation. I don't think the girls will forget "adopting" families at Christmas. I hope it's a tradition they carry on with their own children some day. It's my deepest wish that we're setting the girls up to be successful and money savvy adults!
  21. Wednesday, November 20th, 2013
    This is awesome, something my husband and I ask ourselves all the time about our future children. How do we care about financial stability, saving, and giving our kids a great life while still pushing them toward gratitude? Thanks for the post.
    • Shannon
      Thursday, November 21st, 2013
      Thanks, Krista! I think teaching kids about money and helping them understand how to use it in alignment with their goals is one of the most powerful and loving gifts a parent can give their child. We handle money every day and so few know how to do it well. Being able to make smart, confident decisions with their money, will put your future kids leaps and bounds ahead of their peers. Thanks for stopping by and commenting, I appreciate it!
  22. Wednesday, November 20th, 2013
    This is exactly the mindset I'd like to instil in my daughter as she grows. I love how your daughter was able to be happy for her friend re the larger cabin, you have a lot to be proud of Shannon as it's because of you that she was able to learn this mindset!
    • Shannon
      Thursday, November 21st, 2013
      Thanks, Hayley! I am incredibly proud of my girls. So many times we are happy about an accomplishment until we see someone else who has something better. And we let their "supposed" greater success diminish our own. We might even grumble underneath our breath about their success and say it's undeserved. This is the behavior some kids observe and begin to model. I want my girls to feel genuinely happy for the other person's good fortune and still be incredibly proud of their own achievements, so I try to demonstrate this as often as I can.
  23. Thursday, November 21st, 2013
    That is a wonderful way to raise your family Shannon. I wish I'd had the same upbringing but watching my Dad go through so many health problems made me appreciate life to the fullest.

    I was speaking with a friend today and she was telling me about her horrible upbringing. Her mother was mentally ill and not diagnosed so she took it out on her children. It made me once again know how very blessed I am for my family.

    I think that's wonderful that your daughters are understanding what they have and are obviously thankful for that as well. Giving during the holidays and saving for your trip is a great way to show appreciate for what you have and are able to do. You're a wonderful mother Shannon.

    Happy holidays if I don't talk to you before that.

    ~Adrienne
    • Shannon
      Friday, November 22nd, 2013
      Thanks, Adrienne. I feel grateful that I can give my daughters a great life and want to make sure they appreciate it and don't take it for granted. I know I don't! Happy Thanksgiving to you as well!
  24. Susan Neal
    Friday, November 22nd, 2013
    This is a wonderful mindset to instil in your children, Shannon - I don't think I appreciated what I had nearly enough when I was a child. I wish we had Thanksgiving Day over here - I live in the UK and we don't have anything equivalent to this.

    I agree with Adrienne - sounds to me like you're giving your daughters a wonderful upbringing.
    • Shannon
      Friday, November 22nd, 2013
      Thanks, Susan! I couldn't imagine not having Thanksgiving. :) It's one of my favorite holidays. I appreciate your kind words (and Adrienne's too!). I hope that I'm giving my daughters the skills they need to succeed. Have a great weekend!
  25. Friday, November 22nd, 2013
    Hi Shannon,

    Good to be over at your blog :)

    I love the way you have raised your kid's, and I can say that because this is exactly what I do too. I think the lesson of gratitude isn't something that's taught overnight, nor can you tell someone to be grateful instantly. These lessons are taught right from the time the kids are young, and it's a daily, never ending process.

    The kids learn a lot my example, and when they see their parents do things, they are quick to follow. Just like we donate clothes, old toys, or books, so will our kids learn to do it with time. Yes, those are my favorite words too - " don't leave food on your plate...think of the poor who have nothing to eat" - and kids do listen if you instill such qualities of being grateful into them. Their mindset certainly changes to becoming more grateful.

    Thanks for sharing. Have a nice weekend :)
    • Shannon
      Friday, November 22nd, 2013
      Hi Harleena,

      Thanks for stopping by! I agree, gratitude isn't a one and done lesson. It's something they need to see us do every day. Yes, our kids are always observing and mimicking us, which is why we need to be aware of the lesson they are learning, even if it wasn't our intent to do so. I know that seeing me and their Dad be grateful, helps make a grateful mindset seem normal. You have a great weekend too!
  26. Friday, November 22nd, 2013
    More and more people are thinking about gratitude and helping our kids understand it. I love the ways you are doing this with your kids. If only we could turn the month of December into a random acts of kindness month!
    • Shannon
      Friday, November 22nd, 2013
      Gratitude is such an important lesson to teach kids. I love the idea of making December a random acts of kindness month. It should be! Have a great weekend, Maggie!
  27. Friday, November 22nd, 2013
    Great post, Shannon.

    This is one of the responsibilities that I take very seriously as a parent, because having gratitude is directly related to your life satisfaction. We have a "thankful for" meeting on the calendar for every Tuesday and Thursday night where everyone in the family has to list 3 things that they are grateful for in their lives right now.
    • Shannon
      Friday, November 22nd, 2013
      Thanks, Jefferson! I love Thankful Tuesdays and Thursdays! What a great idea. It's a great habit to instill and one your kids will definitely benefit from doing. Have a great weekend!
  28. Sunday, November 24th, 2013
    Great tips to instill gratefulness in our kids. When my son was younger and involved in Cub Scouts, each year we would do something for the local children's hospital oncology unit (my son is a cancer survivor so it was our way of giving back) and involve his friends. For several years we would ask the kids to buy a toy for our son's birthday party, and then we would donate it. I think it helped all the kids as they were helping other kids in need.
    • Shannon
      Monday, November 25th, 2013
      Oh Carol - I didn't realize your son was a cancer survivor! I'm so glad that he is doing well and was able to give back to other kids in need. I love the idea of kids bringing gifts to donate. It's a powerful lesson for them and one I bet many of them still remember doing.
  29. Sunday, November 24th, 2013
    We work hard to instill a gratitude mindset in our son. I am so grateful and blessed to have my family, so many great friends, a roof over our heads, debt-free, and good health. I do not take any of that for granted. And I'm truly happy when others have things.I hope you have a wonderful and blessed Thanksgiving!
    • Shannon
      Monday, November 25th, 2013
      You obviously demonstrate a great gratitude mindset to your son and I know that he notices. I feel the same way and try not to take any of my blessings for granted. You have a wonderful Thanksgiving too, Donna!
  30. Monday, November 25th, 2013
    Yes! Even when things are not so bright in every area of our lives we can still take a moment to be grateful for what we do have! I do not have kids yet but I agree, gratitude will be taught when they are young to appreciate the life decisions. I love your daughter's response! I hope to raise my kids knowing what it means to be grateful and what a difference it can make in our lives!
    • Shannon
      Monday, November 25th, 2013
      So true, Arelis. Even on those dark days, there are still things to be grateful for, if we're willing to look for them. It's great to hear that you plan to teach your kids about gratitude. It really does make a difference and the sooner kids learn to appreciate the things they have - the better!
Shannon Ryan SHANNON RYAN, CFP®
  • Meet Shannon

    "As a Certified Financial Planner, it is my passion to help individuals and families build a healthy relationship with money. I look forward to helping you raise financially confident kids.” - Shannon Ryan
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