(14 Ways) How to Raise Grateful, Thankful, Joyful Kids: When You’re Tired of Kids Complaining


ow long do I really have to figure it out with my kids how to live a joyfilled, grateful life?

So my husband might find himself married to a woman he loves being with. A woman who knows how to laugh at the days to come?

So our children have these memories of a mama who smiles easy, listens long, makes jokes and praise and all these good days out of crazy messes.

So the Christ in me, Joy Himself, “the gigantic secret of the Christians,” (Chesterton) is apparent to the world around me, Joy to the world, rescuing the world.

Perspective can always adopt gratitude — and gratitude is what always parents joy. 

When the kids were all knee high to grasshoppers, it kinda just looked like this: Each day when they came for dinner, Shalom would pass around the the pad of sticky notes and Levi would write down: “I am thankful for my Dad. For rain today making the wheat grow. For hot soup and good bread.”

Because teaching kids to do this, it’s more than just about being grateful and joyful, if that in itself isn’t enough:

Participants who kept gratitude lists were more likely to have made progress toward important personal goals (academic, interpersonal and health-based) over a two-month period compared to subjects in the other experimental conditions.”

A friend tells me her high school students too are filling a whole window with sticky notes of thanks — and the results? Her sophomore English students “have better attitudes and more energy.”

So, we just kept trying to keep at it, we write out daily 7 Gifts. Malakai started his own 1000 Gifts in handwriting big and sure, graphite pressing into the paper, and now that he’s a 6ft 4 17-year-old? The boy uses the Day One app to daily keep his gratitude list on his phone, snapping a picture to remember all the ways God is good, and personally to him, right here in his own life.

And yesterday, our littlest girl and I, we sit down to write a thank you note to someone who remembered her in prayer, and I leave out a basket of blank cards at the end of the table, waiting for us to express gratitude.

Steven Toepfer of Kent State University, Salem, had students in six courses write letters of gratitude to people who had positively influenced their lives.

Over a six-week period, the students wrote one letter every two weeks. After each letter, the students completed a survey to gauge their moods, satisfaction with life and feelings of gratitude and happiness.

The result, Toepfer said, was dramatic:

“The more thank-you letters they wrote, the better they felt.”

When we give thanks, we gain joy. All of us.

Because what will the math really matter if they are bitter? If the house is immaculate — but my attitude a mess? If they can count — but they don’t know how to count all things as joy? If we get the lists done, but have lost happiness in Him?

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right —- think about such things” (Phil. 4:8).

Focusing on what is beautiful, good, true — isn’t this the truest education?


6 Reasons Why to Teach Kids to Be Grateful

The research can only support Scriptural Truth: 

  1. Better Attitudes:

Children who practice grateful thinking have more positive attitudes toward school and their families (Froh, Sefick, Emmons, 2008).

  1. Better Achieve Personal Goals:

Participants who kept gratitude lists were more likely to have made progress toward important personal goals (academic, interpersonal and health-based) over a two-month period compared to subjects in the other experimental conditions.

  1. Closer Relationships, Greater Happiness:

Professor Froh infused middle–school classes with a small dose of gratitude—and found that it made students feel more connected to their friends, family, and their school:

“By the follow–up three weeks later, students who had been instructed to count their blessings showed more gratitude toward people who had helped them, which led to more gratitude in general. Expressing gratitude was not only associated with appreciating close relationships; it was also related to feeling better about life and school. Indeed, compared with students in the hassles and control groups, students who counted blessings reported greater satisfaction with school both immediately after the two–week exercise and at the three–week follow–up.”

  1. Better Grades:

Gratitude in children: 6-7th graders who kept a gratitude journal for only three weeks, had an increased grade point average over the course of a year.

  1. Greater Energy, Attentiveness, Enthusiasm:

A daily gratitude intervention (self-guided exercises) with young adults resulted in higher reported levels of the positive states of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, attentiveness and energy compared to a focus on hassles or a downward social comparison (ways in which participants thought they were better off than others).

  1. Greater Sensitivity:

Children who kept gratitude journals were more sensitive to situations where they themselves can be helpful, altruistic, generous, compassionate, and less destructive, more positive social behaviors, and less destructive, negative social behaviors…

“Gratitude is good for the giver, and good for the receiver,” Professor Emmons said. “This has been documented in friendships, romantic partners and spouses. One study showed that the mere expression of thanks more than doubled the likelihood that helpers would provide assistance again.”

And if We Don’t Practice Gratitude?

On the other hand, research shows that youth who are ungrateful are “less satisfied with their lives and are more apt to be aggressive and engage in risk-taking behaviors, such as early or frequent promiscuous activities, substance use, poor eating habits, physical inactivity, and poor academic performance.”

All Research: Thanks!: How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier


Why does gratitude do all of this — how can it, really? Because we were made to live in gratitude to God, giving glory to God. 

We were made to live in a posture of grateful worship, and when we live in praise, we live our purpose, and all the pieces fall in place, us all falling down in thanks…

We hand our children a torch when we hand them a pen, a JoyDare to hunt for Him. Sparks fall and the world catches and they see light everywhere, God-glory igniting everything. Hand them a pen. Hand them a pen. 

The way to counter apathy is to count the ways of God….

A child who is afraid? Count blessings so Who can be counted on…

A child who is angry? Anger is always just this: the bleeding of a deep wound. Wrap up wounds intentionally with the gentle bandage of God’s unending love, His daily, tender graces.

A child who needs to learn pray? “The only real prayers are the ones mouthed with thankful lips. Prayer, to be prayer, to have any power to change anything, must first speak thanks: “in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6 NIV, emphasis added).” ~One Thousand Gifts

So we try this:

14 Happy Ways to Grateful, Joyfilled Kids

1. Make Space for Thanks: As a family fill a whole window or wall with sticky notes of thanks to Him — shaped like a tree, a heart, a happy face, anything at all.

Hang a craft paper banner at the back door and invite the whole family to fill it in a month with their gratitude, just grabbing the pen and writing down one or two gifts every time they come in or out the door. Paint a verse or a Grateful Tree right on a wall and encourage kids and visitors to write their thanks right on the wall, or in painted leaves, a visual testimony of your thankfulness to all who come or go. Be intentional about taking Joy!

2. Leave out a basket of thank-you notes, an invitation to always give thanks to someone.

3. Have everyone make their own gratitude journal {click here for free printables for your own gratitude journal}

4. Sing the “Count Your Blessings, name them one-by-one” around the tableafter one meal every day — and after the chorus, call out the name of a family member, who then gives thanks for a blessing or two… then sing the refrain and call out someone else’s name.

5. Leave a Family Gratitude Journal permanently open on the counter: Encourage the whole family to write out a few more of the 1000 Gifts in your 1000 gifts Gratitude Journal.


6. Tuck a copy of of the one-sheet free download booklet 7 Gifts: Good and Perfect into a lunchbox or a coat pocket for kids to fill out at school and keep their focus on what’s pure and lovely. Share their finds every night at dinner? Somehow, in your own unique way: Establish a daily ritual of sharing thanksgivings!

7. Take the Daily Joy Dare: Print out each month’s Joy Dare  and put it on the fridge. In the morning, share that day’s dare of 3 gifts to look for and dare the kids to go on a God Hunt that day and keep their eyes open to find those three gifts. Make it part of your evening routine to share where you found those 3 gifts that day.

8. No Complaining Day: Dare to go all day (week? month) with no complaining. Slip a rubber band, bracelet, on your wrist (or use your watch) and every time you complain, move it to the other wrist. Dare everyone in the whole family to go the whole day without moving your wrist reminder. Celebrate with a special treat when the whole family can go the whole day with no complaining!

9. Play the “What’s Good & Lovely” High-Way Game: Make it the game you play in the car. One person calls out a person’s name, anything seen out the window, anything at all: and each person has to take the High Way and think of one ‘good & lovely” thing about what was called. (Ideas of what to call out: Bill! Our country! Our family! Your body! Mondays! Sisters! Moms!)

10. Make Great-Full Jars for each member of your family: Your Go-to Pick-Me-Up: 

Easy for children to make — Great-full jars: grab a pretty jar, box, container and some lovely paper. Cut the paper into slips.

Write down things you are grateful about the recipient. Example: 5 funny memories with Dad. 4 Things I love about Mom. 7 Reasons Why I love having you as my sister. Write down each memory, reason, gift, on individual slips of paper. Fill the jar with the great notes of memories and joys and love, noting why you are so grateful for that person. Give the jar with a note to the recipient, letting them know that this is the gift that keeps on giving: over and over again they can come to their Great-Full jar and remember why they are loved as a great gift to their family.

11. Make Family Thanksgiving into Thanks-Living: Each Week choose a Family Thanks-Living Project. When we live lifestyle thanksgiving — our very lives become thanks-living. Our lives overflowing with gratitude for the blessings, that we ourselves become the blessing, make our life a gift of joy to someone else.

12. Every week choose a Family Thanks-Living Project: Volunteer to help a shut-in? Make a meal or a sweet treat for a family? Offer time at local charity? Write it down on the fridge, what the Family Thanks-Living Project is for the week — a way to live out our joy. Because it is even Better to Give the Blessings than Receive the Blessings!

13. If you or your older kids/teens are carrying a phone during the day, consider downloading the Day One App, so you can capture photos of your gifts during the day, jot down your gratitude list for the day — and at the end of the year or the season — there’s a feature in the app to print out all of your gratitude lists into a printed, bound book!

14. Model Gratitude Yourself: More is caught than taught. Intentionally purpose to live wholesale gratitude & personally take the Dare to write 1000 gifts! Have them maybe see you counting gifts in your own One Thousand Gifts Journal, (or reading One Thousand Gifts?) Let them see your joy!


So we gather the last of the apples from the orchard, bring in the last of the harvest from the garden and I don’t know how long I have to live full of His joy but I know do have right now.

And if perspective can always adopt gratitude and gratitude always parents joy, I pick up a pen and bow the head and pray to be that kind of parent.

The one laughing at all the crazy days to come…

Kids watching me choose gratefulness again and again, and all these ticking moments great and full….


It’s not too late to begin!

This is the season to wake up to real living —

the journey to joy begins this week!

More than a MILLION people have already stepped into the life-change of this experience.

Are you ready to begin—or begin again—a life-changing habit of daily gratitude?

This is absolutely amazing & completely unexpected but our friends at FaithGateway (!!! Sister site to Biblegateway!!!) have chosen One Thousand Gifts as their next FREE (!!!) online Bible study, now and leading right up to Christmas.

Want to reset, refresh, reboot your life and literally rewire your brain? 

Did you know? Researchers said of those who do this one thing of keeping a gratitude journal:

“Participants who’d kept a gratitude journal felt better about their lives as a whole and were more optimistic about the future … they were a full 25 percent happier than the other participants. They sleep 1/2 hour more per evening, and exercise 33 percent more each week and felt more joyful, enthusiastic, interested, attentive, energetic, excited, determined, and strong.”

That’s exactly what writing down 1000 gifts did to me. It woke me up to really living.

This dare to count a thousand gifts from His heart, it became the ultimate love dare, counting all the ways He loved me. So this is the thing, friend: What if finding love is as simple as recording 1000 gifts?

We may be weary. We may be wounded. But we are wooed.

Who doesn’t long to be loved, to be treasured, to be showered with gifts? A thousand — more!

It’s not too late to sign up right here —

and you’ll get access to all the learning videos (sent to your email each week of the study), and a whole bundle of free beautiful tools to make lasting life change.

Be one of the more than one MILLION people who have stepped into the life-change of this experience.

Let’s do this, friends!

Let’s end the year strong in joy as we count all the ways He loves us!

Screen Shot 2019-11-01 at 12.36.51 PM

It would be a grace to have you join in!

And click here to grab a FREE seat for this course on giving thanks —

and see how things can look up —

for the rest of your one wild and beautiful life.