Helping children learn to be thankful

by Katelin Whiddon

With recent devastation around our country and world, we have so much for which to be thankful. There are so many people left without their homes, their belongings and even lives after fires, hurricanes, shootings and other awful recent events. Unfortunately, even when we see what terrible times others face, we continue to struggle to be thankful for what we have. 


I recently saw a social media post of a woman who was blasting Walt Disney World because her bed wasn’t made up during Hurricane Irma. She was blasted by thousands of comments questioning why she was so ungrateful that she had shelter, electricity, food/water, etc. Since that post, I continue to think about how we are so ungrateful for all that we have. Even some of the poorest Americans have so much more than a large percentage of the rest of the world. 

Talking about this with friends, we began discussing about how humbling mission trips are — traveling the world to serve others. So many around the world are so thankful for each and every thing they have while we cannot behave the same here most days. 

I believe part of the reason we are not always thankful for what we have is because we have too much. Think of children at Christmas and birthday parties. They receive so many gifts, they obviously cannot play with them all. So how many of the new gifts they receive sit and collect dust? When children receive only a few items, they can be grateful for what they have. I know we have all seen children throw things down if it is not exactly how they like. But if you’ve ever seen a child truly thankful for what they are given, it is refreshing. 

There are ways we can teach our children to be more thankful. Try to get your children to help around the house. Create simple chores and show your gratitude when children help. Praise them for contributing to the household duties, and they will be more likely to help again. 

Use positive reinforcement at home instead of only negative. Talk about things you are thankful for with your children and encourage them to find things they are thankful for as well. Of course, it is typical to do this at Thanksgiving around the table, but why do we only share what we are thankful for once a year? 

Find ways you and your family can help others. Serving others and seeing how that person is thankful will show children the joy of helping those around them. 

Don’t always give your children everything they ask for. When they don’t always hear “yes,” they will be more grateful and excited when they do. 

I read somewhere recently an idea about creating a thankful jar or box. Each person in the family writes things they are thankful for and drops them in. On days when you feel less than thankful, pull something out to remind you what all you are blessed with. This is an incredible idea and something worth looking into. 

Of course, we want to raise thankful, thoughtful, respectful children, and we work our best at it. In such a selfish world, selfless people truly shine above the rest. We can all find little ways to teach our children lifelong traits to make them into the best children and adults they can be.


A Conway native, Katelin Whiddon is a nurse practitioner at the Conway wound clinic for Arkansas Heart Hospital. She and her husband, Daniel, have two daughters. A University of Central Arkansas graduate, she has her bachelor’s and master’s degrees and works in pediatrics.