3 Ways to Raise Grateful Teens by Ron Powell


Here are 3 effective ways to nurture gratitude and defeat a sense of entitlement in teens.

Before I get into what parents are doing to build gratitude look at the big benefits for our kids!

Growing Up Grateful Gives Teens Multiple Mental Health Benefits, New Research Shows

Those who became more grateful also:

  • gained 15 percent more of a sense of meaning in their life;
  • become 15 percent more satisfied with their life overall (at home, at school, with their neighborhood, with their friends and with themselves);
  • become 17 percent more happy and more hopeful about their lives;
  • experienced a 13 percent drop in negative emotions and a 15 percent drop in depressive symptoms.

And in general:

“people who practice gratitude feel considerably happier (25%) than those in a control group; they are more joyful, enthusiastic, interested, and determined.” To look at the study click here.

1. Refute Materialistic Consumer Madness

Others have blogged that “marketers want to accomplish two things with your children:

  • Awaken and amplify their desire to consume
  • Blur the line between wants and needs

When my girls were young we would play a game during the commercials. I told them that each commercial has at least one lie. The game was to “Spot the Lie

Very quickly they were shouting at the commercials, “that board game isn’t that fun.” Or “No one wants to play with me when I pull out my easy bake oven! They run home!”

Ads are scientifically designed to make us need a product that we don’t need. If there is any way possible to lessen your teens exposure to ads do whatever you can to do so. At the same time I realize that it’s very difficult to do this because ads are almost everywhere!

If you can, purposely turn off the Ads and point out the marketing lies whenever possible. Marketing thrives on stirring up a desire for products that promise to make us healthier, happier, or more desirable. If you are watching media with your son or daughter, ask if the products promoted live up to their promises.

Say no sometimes when your son or daughter wants to give in to impulse buying. Teach them to save for items and in some cases match their savings and chip in rather than buying it for them outright. Helping them to understand the value of things may help them appreciate what they have. It may also help them to learn to be satisfied to get by with what they have.

2. Model Gratitude and Contentment

They say that the “apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” This may be especially true when it comes to our values. We may oppose materialism and be content with what the Lord has given us, but how do we show this to our kids? Here are some suggestions from parents of teens:

give thanks more often; especially at spontaneous, random moments like driving to school. “God I am so thankful for this car to get us to school.”

rejoice –for no particular purpose except to show appreciation for God’s provision. It’s worth rejoicing over!

give to others –As your teens see you make someone’s day by giving something away, they recognize that really it is “more blessed to give than to receive.”

under-consume –see how little you can get by with instead of how much you can accumulate. Try a no spending day.

-appreciate and be seen to appreciate– send thank you cards, offer warm kinds words, be liberal with you praise of others.

-foster a deep sense in yourself of great satisfaction with what you have. Not being in love with your possessions but being so thankful that God has given them to you.

reject the throw away culture –use things long and well

-ruthlessly evaluate your needs versus your wants. –As your teens see you talking about and processing at this level he or she may begin to evaluate as well

-depression often stems from what you want but do not have –finding happiness in what the Lord has given you (probably more than you need) instead of grumbling about what you do not have, will help teens to be more happy with what they have. (Surveys shows that a vast majority of teens feel they do not have enough money –I wonder where they got that one from?

Identify and fight covetousness or envy –Our kids will pick up on our strong desires for what others have –sometimes from the way that we criticize others. Sometimes they see it from our level of dissatisfaction with our old stuff and a desire for new. This is probably most pronounced when it comes to cars, tech, homes, tools or accessories– actually probably anything!

Talk about it The researcher, Giacomo Bono – a professor of psychology at California State University, Dominguez Hills – suggests that we,  “Talk about what you’re grateful for, and ask your kids what they appreciate…. Talking about gratitude helps guide us all to the things that matter most.”

3. Learn About, Pray for, and Help Others Who Have Less

There are families with remarkably grateful teens. As I asked the parents about what they were doing to nurture gratitude in their kids, here is what I found:

  • Some families have a sponsor child. Others have one child for each of their own children. Other families have taken in foster children. These actions raise awareness and help teens recognize that others are not as fortunate as them.
  • Some pray each meal time for those with less. Of course it is good to give God thanks at every meal. Some families go a step further and always include prayers for the homeless and starving.
  • Take great joy in giving things away–It feels so good to help young families by giving them clothes that our girls used to wear but are too small for them now. If teens can learn to take greater joy is giving than getting they are on their way toward a grateful heart.
  • Practice generosity and hospitality. If children observe their parents cooking for others, inviting people over and doing things for others without any kind of repayment they grow to embrace this value for themselves.
  • Go on a urban ministry or missions trip. My wife took the girls on a trip to work in an orphanage this year. They all came back with great concern for orphans and greater appreciation for their own beds! Sharing this experience creates opportunity for discussion of values and demonstrates that not every trip has to be to a 4 star hotel.

An Attitude of Gratitude

As with so many things our sons and daughters will become much like us. If they see a continual thirst for “more stuff” and the expectation that God owes it to us, they will grow up with a sense of entitlement. On the other hand, if they recognize that we are satisfied with God’s provision they will become about as grateful as we are. As usual the change we want to see in our teens must begin with us.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.