How to Teach Your Teen to Be Grateful

With the Thanksgiving season upon us, families all over the United States are thinking about the many things that they are grateful for. Some parents find that their teenagers seem to be anything but grateful, and this can be frustrating. It is developmentally appropriate for teens to be somewhat self-centered and this can lead to them seeming ungrateful, but many teens also have a hard time expressing their gratitude. Read on for some tips on teaching your teen how to be grateful and how to show their gratitude. 

Model Thankfulness 

Although it might seem as though your teen isn’t using you as a role model anymore, this could not be further from the truth. He or she is watching you to see how you react to situations and how you conduct yourself in your daily life. If you want your teen to be grateful, be sure that you are modeling gratitude. How can you do this? Try some of the following: 

  • Talk about the good things that happen to you each day. One good idea is to touch base as a family (at dinner or in the evening) to ask each person what their favorite part of the day was.  
  • Always thank cashiers, waiters, and other people in the community who help you. Even though they are being paid to do their jobs, they still enjoy hearing “thank you,” and your teen is learning how to treat other people from you. 
  • Talk about the need to call or write grandparents and other relatives or friends who send gifts. This is particularly important if you live far away from your extended families and might not have a close in-person relationship with them. If you receive a gift from one of your parents, for example, be sure to mention that you are going to call and thank them. 
  • Thank your teen. If your adolescent unloads the dishwasher, vacuums the living room, or feeds the dog with or without you asking, be sure to thank them. Do this even if it is one of their regular chores. 

Encourage a Gratitude Journal 

Many teens like to journal, and a gratitude journal is a good way for anyone to be more intentional about being thankful for the good things that happen in their lives. Encourage your son or daughter to write down a few things they’re grateful for each day or a few days per week. At first, this might seem difficult, but over time, your teen will get more and more used to looking for small things to be grateful for and will be able to think of them at the end of each day. 

If your teen doesn’t know where to start, encourage him or her to think about the best thing that happened to them that day. Think about who was involved; are they grateful for that person or for the circumstances? If they need more nudging, ask whether they enjoyed what they ate that day, if the weather was nice, and if anyone helped them with anything. These types of suggestions will often get their gears turning. 


Take Your Teen to Volunteer 

Knowing that you have more than someone else, including extra time, can cause anyone to be more grateful. Expecting teenagers to volunteer is a regular part of many school districts; in many areas, teens can’t graduate from high school or qualify for certain scholarships unless they have invested a certain number of hours toward volunteering. If your teen doesn’t have this requirement for school, you can create the requirement on your own. 

Encourage your teen to volunteer to help someone in some way. There are so many different types of volunteer opportunities available that your teen is sure to find something that sparks his or her passion. Some ideas to consider might be volunteering at an animal shelter, working in a church nursery, delivering water to hospital patients, building homes with an organization like Habitat for Humanity, volunteering at the library, and reaching out to various nonprofit organizations in your area to see what the needs are. 


Make Sure Your Teen Has Responsibilities at Home 

Another way to help your teen to be more grateful is to be sure that he or she knows what type of effort goes into keeping a home running. If you do everything for your teen, they might not realize that you are putting time and effort into the various necessary tasks. For example, if dinner appears on the table every night, the dishes are whisked away and return to the cabinets clean and shiny, and their dirty laundry disappears only to reappear clean and folded in their drawers the next day, it would be easy for your teen to not comprehend the work that went into those chores. 

Make sure your adolescent has chores and responsibilities around the house. They can, of course, pitch in with cooking, cleaning up, scrubbing the bathroom that they use, doing their laundry, and so on. They can also take care of a pet, do the grocery shopping (if they drive), and handle some yard work. Don’t be afraid to put your teen to work; it will help prepare them for adult life and will also help them to be more grateful for all of the chores that someone else takes care of. 

Practice Makes Perfect 

Keep in mind that none of these suggestions will magically result in a more grateful teen. Some of the suggestions might seem trite or forced at first, and that’s okay. What matters is that your teen practices an attitude of gratitude now so that it becomes second nature within time. Grateful people are more pleasant to be around and can make the most out of negative situations. Being more thankful is a great skill that will serve your teen well in life, so take some time this month and every month to encourage your teen to cultivate more gratitude and to express it to those he or she is thankful for.