Parenting,  Stories

From ‘Whine-r’ to ‘Thank-er’: Teaching kids gratefulness

Mama, why can’t I have this? It’s not faaaaiiirrrr!”

Papa, why do I have to do it? No one else does this at our school. My life sucks!”

Why can my friends have those toys but I can’t? I never get what I want!”


Most, if not all, parents have probably had to deal with statements such as the ones above – spoken by a whining, seemingly ungrateful child – at one point or another in their lives. We’ve also probably reacted in various ways to such sentiments, too – ranging from patiently explaining the situation to our kids, or snapping at them to “stop whining right now… or else!”

The reality is all human beings – especially little ones – aren’t born with a “gratefulness chip” plugged into their brains. Knowing when and how to give thanks is something that is – and should be – taught to us, usually from a young age.

Thus, as parents and the primary educators of our children, we must do our best to teach our kids to be grateful. Registered guidance counselor, registered psychologist and author Michele Alignay shares some tips for doing so below:

  1. Look at yourself.

Assess yourself as a parent, specifically on how you are giving in to your child’s whining.

Think about it: When your child whines about something, do you respond right away for the sake of repetitive whining and tears? Or do you respond due to the fear that the child “will throw a fit”? Or maybe it is because pity is the most prominent among your emotions? Perhaps you’re afraid about what other people might say about you and your whiny child. Whatever the case may be, it is best to hold off if you can, and check first why the whining is there.

Remember, too, that you do not need to give in to all your kid’s demands – the more you do so, the more they will get their way. Instead, let them cry and talk to them when they are ready to for a conversation.

Make sure you briefly explain why you are withholding something. Keep in mind that there are things we do not give to them right away or all the time as they also need to be trained on the importance of delaying gratification, the value of patience, and waiting.

  1. Set an example.

Be grateful and show it through what you say and do. Check your words and your ways.

If we, parents, often see the negative side of life, or we often demand attention and immediate responses from the people around us, our kids may be picking up the same attitudes and habits. We need to be consistently thankful and motivate our kids to see the good side of things – not just when they are having tantrums but at every opportunity.

  1. Show them who’s “boss.”

Do not let children rule the house. This may seem cute at times but sometimes could allow them to get away with mischief. If we are not clear with them on what behavior and responses we expect from them as they deal with others, they will always insist on getting their way.

So, it’s important for us to teach them to obey the rules, plus provide guidelines, and set boundaries. Going overboard on what is appropriate or acceptable would really result in “bratty” behavior.

For example, my rule for my own kids is that they are allowed only 30 minutes to an hour of gadget use on Fridays, and 30 minutes on weekdays. If they want to use gadgets for a longer time on days when they are not allowed to have more, and they remark “Ahhh, one hour only!”  I tell them, “I am giving you an hour already, say ‘Thank you, Mom!’ You can choose – use the one hour you’re given or don’t use it at all.”

  1. Distinguish between rights and privileges.

I teach my kids that gadgets and other “luxuries” in life are mostly privileges. The basic needs like food, clothing, shelter — these are rights. They can enjoy privileges only if we allow them, or under certain conditions.

We do not have everything we want in life, and most of us need to work hard in order to earn certain privileges. That’s why we should teach kids that they are not always entitled to things they did not work for or are not theirs. Instead, they should learn to be grateful for what they have.

In a nutshell, gratitude should be the atmosphere your child breathes. Live it. Speak it. Show it. Be clear and consistent about it and in no time, you’ll have a child  geared for the rough roads of life because he’s armed with thankfulness.

Tina Santiago-Rodriguez

Tina is a Catholic wife and homeschooling mom by vocation, and a writer and editor by profession. She is also a resource speaker on different topics like homeschooling, intentional parenting, spiritual growth, and family life. As a self-proclaimed "media missionary," Tina leads #DiamondsAmongDiapers (an online and "in real life" support group for moms), and founded Liturgical Living Philippines to inspire Catholics to unite themselves to the liturgical life of the Church. You can connect with her via her blog or on Instagram @tinasrodriguez.

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