An Attitude of Gratitude

This post is by regular contributor Catherine Oehlman aka Squigglemum.

When I started my career as a teacher a poster near my classroom read, “Let your attitude be one of gratitude.”  I’m not sure whether the reminder was for the students or for the teachers!  No matter what age we are, it is oh-so-easy to grumble about what we don’t have, instead of being grateful for the abundance we do have.  Here are five suggestions for growing an attitude of gratitude in your family.

1. Lead by example: (You knew I was going to say that first, didn’t you?!)  Our kids are looking to us all the time.  They notice the things we say, and the things we neglect to say.  If as parents we constantly complain, we cannot possibly expect our children to do otherwise.  We are our kids’ first teachers and strongest role models.  They will follow in the way we lead.

2. Teach manners: I don’t think manners are old fashioned (with a few exceptions) and they are still expected in most social settings.  Please and thank you are often amongst the first words we teach our kids, for good reason.  It’s important that as adults we use manners ourselves when speaking to children.  The way we give instructions can determine the mood in our homes.  “Please don’t leave your shoes on the floor.  Put them away where they belong… Thank you for putting your shoes away. That is helpful.”

3. Create good habits: A habit is defined as an ‘acquired behaviour pattern regularly followed until it becomes almost involuntary’ (  One habit that has become almost involuntary in our home is saying thank you to whoever has cooked dinner before asking to leave the table.  My kids might not always like the meal in front of them, but I still want them to be grateful for the food they have!  As a Christian family, another good habit we encourage is starting our bedtime prayers with “Dear God, thank you for…”

4. Count blessings: Some of us are glass half full people, while others have to look hard to find the positives in life.  Your kids may need a little help to see how rich they really are.  A great activity with preschoolers is to count toys.  How many dolls/trucks/books/etc do they have?  (This works for mums too. Count how many shoes you have…!)  Someone else will always have more iToys (or Jimmy Choos) but we still have more than we need.

5. See the big picture: I often find I struggle with the imbalance in the world.  I throw out leftovers without a second thought, while other women cannot even feed their families.  My kids have access to a local GP, 24hr doctor service and a hospital emergency department, while other children die from preventable diseases.  At an age appropriate level, I want my kids to understand the bigger picture of the world we live in.  Beyond being grateful for what they have, I want them to make a difference to those who have less.  At the moment we are preparing shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child.

An attitude of gratitude isn’t something you can suddenly insert into your family.  It takes time to grow, and requires consistent role modelling.  But if it makes your home a happier place… if it makes your kids appreciate their lifestyle… if it makes even a little difference in the world… then isn’t it worth the effort?

What other suggestions do you have for growing an attitude of gratitude in your home?

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  1. Kate @ Puddles and Gumboots says:

    This is a lovely post, such important points. I really think good manners are so important to pass onto children, we have a rule of always thanking the chef too! I’m such a big fan of Operation Christmas Child, so happy to be doing that with kids this year 🙂

    1. SquiggleMum says:

      Samaritan’s Purse do such awesome work, don’t they? I just love how simple it is to be involved with OCC, yet make so much difference to a child. Plus it’s something our own kids can understand and be involved with too!

  2. Meghan Lynch says:

    Thank you for this lovely post! Wonderful lessons for everyone in the family!!! I will definitely be using these ideas in my house. I will be sharing this post with my followers at!

    1. SquiggleMum says:

      Thanks Meghan 🙂

  3. Anneliese says:

    Thanks for your post! It is always good to be reminded to be thankful. When ever my kids start to grumble or grizzle i stop them and ask them to think of 5 things they are grateful for- they forget they are grumbling when they try to think of five things and their mood changes by the time they tell me all 5! -Anneliese

    1. great idea Anneliese I might start doing this! my girl is terrible at whining..

      1. SquiggleMum says:

        I think we’ll try this one too! (Maybe I’ll do it myself while folding washing…)

  4. Lisa Wood says:

    I really like that saying “An Attitude of Gratitude” !! I am so grateful in my life for all that I have, and that is coming to me….that is one of my sayings that I say over and over!
    What has happened to our kids? why are they no longer respectful? Is it because us parents have forgotten to be respectful?
    About a year ago I was swimming at a local swimming pool when I noticed a kid from the high school was really rude. He was rude to the poor teacher (who had no glue how to handle him) and was rude to his class mates. I couldnt keep swimming and take what he was doing. I ended up calling him over, and spoke quietly but firm to him. I asked him “Does speaking like that to your teacher make you feel good? Would you make your parents feel proud by speaking with those words? What would your Mum think about it” He put his head down, and he was so upset with himself. Then he tells me that his Mum walked out and his Dad “Wouldnt Give A Shit, Miss” !!! (gosh I was surprised to be called Miss as I was not a teacher!) I then quietly asked him “What would you like to be doing in your life 10 years from now. Think about how you are going to look back at your life, and think about are you going to be proud of yourself” !!!

    When I told my teenage sons what I had done (later that night) they were upset. I had spoken out loud to another kid who I did not know. That shocked them. But I explained that respect starts with caring!!

    Respect starts with everyone looking at for everyone.

    What ever happened to society looking out for each others kids?


  5. Jo @countrylifeexperiment says:

    I think that people who have an attitude of gratitude are more likely to be content with what they have.
    We have just completed our box for Operation Christmas Child! Glad to see others also enjoy doing this too!

  6. Great post! I agree with every point especially the manners! I think its such a big thing to teach our kids manners~ it teaches them respect and kindness! thanks for the post love it x

  7. Bernadine says:

    I am knitting a blanket for Save The Children Australia which opened up the discussion with my children why some children have so little and to appreciate what they have. I also really encourage my children to treat everyone equally and make sure that they play with all the children in their kindy. My son has a number of autisic children in his kindy and we have gone out of our way to find out their similar interests so that they can interact with eachother.

    1. SquiggleMum says:

      Love your attitude Bernadine. And awesome to hear you’re knitting a blanket!

  8. Thank you for your reminder about gratitude – you can never say thank you to enough people! At dinner every night, we take it in turns to say what we are grateful for about the day. The kids might be grateful for dinner, playing basketball at lunchtime, seeing their cousins, doing woodwork at kinder … As you mentioned in your post, modelling gratitude is important so I will always join in too. Sometimes it is about the kids – I am grateful for painting with them or for one of them helping me. Sometimes I am grateful for a good book, talking to a friend, feeling satisfied about a work project or simply grateful that it’s nearly bedtime!

    1. SquiggleMum says:

      … or simply grateful for a hot cuppa!

  9. Wonderfully thoughtful list you’ve shared here.

    One thing I think is also important is to slow down. Too busy lives don’t leave time or a calm perspective to see through. Slowing down allows us to live by an attitude of gratitude…and to be a happy.

    I enjoyed your attitude of gratitude thoughts here—they really are ones to live by.

    1. SquiggleMum says:

      Yes, slowing down is an excellent point. How can we be grateful for roses if we don’t slow down enough to stop and smell them…?

  10. Bernadine says:

    Just a quick question, I followed the link to Operation Christmas Child and was wondering if you can give good quality used toys/books in the shoe boxes or do they prefer new items?

    1. SquiggleMum says:

      I’m pretty sure they request new Bernadine. We enjoy browsing the aisles at our dollar shop /discount store to fill the boxes 🙂

  11. Taryn (Life's Juggling Act) says:

    So true! Thanks for the reminder to constantly have (& display to your children) an attitude of gratitude! We have a Compassion child for each member of our family with the intention thatas our son (& future kids) grows up, he’ll draw pictures & correspond with his sponsor child. I plan to teach him what life is like for his sponsor child – learning about a different culture & having very little at the same time. I have seen some great ideas for pocket money to help as well… Always having a quarter of their pocket money go into a ‘giving’ section of their money box. I like the idea of getting them to save it up & use the money to buy the toys, etc for an OCC shoe box! 🙂 Hopefully I’ll remember all these ideas when the time comes!

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