When my kids were little and someone would give them a cookie or a toy,  I would always say, “What do you say Jack?” And his sweet little voice would say, “Thank you for the cookie.” Now that they are older, I listen for their “thank yous” and try my best not to prompt them. Something about reminding your 18-year-old to say thank you doesn’t go over very well.

But I want my kids to be more than well-trained and polite.

I want to nurture in them a truly grateful heart.

This is difficult. In our world, my kids have more than they will ever need. The number of gifts they receive for Christmas and birthdays is almost embarrassing. They are never in want and they have never experienced great loss.

How DO you nurture a grateful heart in the lives of children who believe that they SHOULD have everything they need?

Here are a couple of things to consider:

1. Don’t excessively give “stuff” to your kids.

You would think that the more you have, the more grateful you become. Because you have MORE to be grateful for. But somehow the opposite is true. Somehow the more we have, the more we take for granted. Strangely, when we have less, we are so much more grateful for each gift we are given.

2. Express sincere gratitude for the things YOU have been given.

As a parent, you need to go beyond the polite “thank you.” Talk to your kids about the things you are grateful for. Help them see what a difference that gift or that home cooked meal made for you and your family. Express gratitude for your health, your job and your family. Go beyond the stuff and express your personal gratitude for the bigger aspects of your life.

3. Teach your kids to take care of what they have.

When you are truly grateful for something, you tend to value and take care of it. Taking care of the things that you’ve been given communicates that you understand the value of the gift. It matters to you. You are grateful.

4. Instill in your kids the understanding that everything belongs to God.

This is the thought that we don’t own anything. It’s all a gift. Every breath? A gift. Our children? A gift. A warm home? A gift. Clean water? A gift. We don’t deserve these things. We certainly aren’t in control of these things. God has given them to us. They are a gift. Everything we have belongs to God. It is all in His control. It’s all a gift.

When your children are young, you are in the training phase. You are teaching them the “thank yous.” But when you go beyond “thank you” to really helping their heart understand that they don’t deserve what they have, you have the opportunity to raise children who understand that everything is a gift. And a day will come when they realize the true value of those gifts.

On that day? You will have a child whose heart is truly grateful.

What are some other practical ways to teach your children to be truly grateful?