The Connected Mom

Let's make it more fun to be grateful! This episode is packed with practical ways to instill gratitude in your home...and hopefully your heart. For the holidays or anytime!

Show Notes

How can you help your kids be filled with gratitude . . . and how can you make that fun? Gratitude is something God honors, and according to the research, it actually makes people more happy in their adult life. Who knew? Today Becky shares lots of ideas to make gratitude fun at any age--from toddlers to high schoolers. We even throw in a few tips for grandparents!


Authentic, passionate, funny and Biblical all describe, Becky Harling. A best-selling author, Becky is a popular speaker at conferences, retreats and other events. She is a best-selling author and has written eleven books including, How To Listen So Your Kids Will Talk and the author of Psalms for the Anxious Heart. Becky is a certified coach with the John Maxwell Team and offers parent coaching.
Becky and her husband, Steve have traveled and ministered in over 60 countries around the world. She is the parent of four grown married kids and Mimi to 14 grandchildren!

You can connect with Becky at and
Facebook, Twitter @beckyharling, or Instagram @BeckyHarling

Becky shares tips for connecting with your children in How To Listen So Your Kids Will Talk

Creators & Guests

Becky Harling
Author of How to Listen So Your Kids Will talk and several others. Podcast host of The Connected Mom. A dynamic speaker who is passionate about Jesus.

What is The Connected Mom?

Form a deeper connection with God, more empathic connection with other Moms, and more intentional connection with your child.

Welcome to the Connected Mom podcast, where we have real conversations helping you to connect more deeply with God, more empathically with other moms, and more intentionally with your child. I'm Becky Harling, your host, and I have with me today my amazing co host, Sarah Wildman. Welcome, Sarah.

Thank you, Becky. It's always a privilege to be here. What are we talking about today?

Hey, today we have the holidays while we're recording this right around the corner. And so we thought it would be really fun to do, making gratitude fun for your kids, because I think a lot of parents really want their kids to be filled with gratitude. But I don't know about you, Sarah, but I hear a lot of times from, uh, moms, particularly my child is so entitled, you know? And I think we're honestly, I think that's giving kids a bad rap, because I think at the end of the day, all of us struggle with a bit of entitlement. And so today we're going to talk about how can you help your kids be filled with gratitude and how can you make that fun? Because I do think gratitude is something God honors, and according to the research, it actually makes people more happy in their adult life. Who knew?

I love those tests. It's always cool when what we know is the right thing to do actually proves itself in a study.

I know. It's amazing.

This is really good for us, and it actually is so cool. Yes. I think back to what you're saying about kids feeling entitled. It really is all of us. But on one hand, I'm like, well, it's kind of a gift. Like, if a kid feels like they're cared for and they have all they need as a gift. But as adults, we know that those things come with sacrifice, and they're not a given. Right. So I think you had mentioned, um, before we started recording about it's easy to lecture, right? We could just say, okay, you should be grateful. And most of the time, I feel like that's not really how we absorb lessons. Right. Like those lovely lectures.

Yeah, I love that you call them lovely lectures. But, uh, you know, honestly, I was thinking about this this morning in a different context. Sarah and I have never known one person who has changed their behavior because they were scolded. I just personally can't think of anybody, because most of us just don't like being scolded. I mean, it is a part of our life, but it's, uh, not the motivator in what helps us to change. And yet, if we read Paul I go back to this verse in my own life a lot. You know, Paul writes to the church in thessalonica, uh, give thanks in all circumstances, because this is the will of God concerning you, you know, and please, mamas, as you're listening to us, don't say that's the verse I need to give my child. If you want to encourage them to memorize, sure, do it, but give them a prize for memorizing it. Don't use the word of God as a paddle to scold them, because that's just not effective, and they'll end up resenting it.

So looking back, Becky, I'm sure you have examples of how you wouldn't do it again, but do you have anything that comes to mind on how you and Steve modeled gratitude in your home?

I feel like it was a gradual process for us, but, uh, I began to realize, okay, kids aren't naturally going to be grateful unless they see it in my life. And so as Stephen I grew, you grow as parents. You're not just growing kids, hopefully. But as we grew, I began to realize, hey, I am so grateful. I'm grateful that we live in a country where I have freedom. I'm grateful for salvation. I'm grateful for these children. I'm grateful on so many, um, levels. One of the things that we began doing and that we do actually we did this later in our parenting journey and still do, is at night, like, around the dinner table, hey, I'll say to Steve, what are your three top blessings for the day? And sometimes, if it's been a rough day, he'll be like, Well, I don't feel like doing that tonight. I'm like, I know, but I don't feel like it either. But I want to keep cultivating this in us. And so we'll list our three blessings. And it's funny, Sarah, because, um, I guess it was maybe three summers ago, one of our little grandsons was eating dinner with us, and in the middle of dinner, he said, Wait, Mimi. And I'm like, yeah, buddy, what's wrong? He's like, we didn't do our blessings yet. And, you know, I kind of loved that he was only, like, three or four at the time, but even three and four year olds can think of something that they're grateful for, and I think dinner time is a great time to do that, especially when the dinner maybe isn't what the kids love. And you have to be careful with that. We probably have all been threatened with do you know kids in Africa don't have any of this? You should be grateful. Drop the shoulds. Let's say that. Drop all the shoulds. You should be great. Drop the shoulds. And, uh, instead say, okay, none of us like peas, or none of us like broccoli, or this chicken didn't turn out well, or whatever. But what happened today that you can be thankful for? You know, anything, you know?

Right. Yeah. I love those ideas. And I also have been thinking about how there's that phrase, more is caught than taught.


Which is like, oh, boy. Um, but on a positive side, uh, I've been more conscious to verbally. Thank God for things that go right during the day or even when it's not good, but just thank you, God, that, you know, my paycheck came in the mail the other day, right when we needed it, and just those little things that I hope that my boys will just absorb over time of me modeling it. I think what you're saying with the blessing jar is you as the parent modeling that thankfulness even when you've had a hard day, like, okay, Lord, where we find our gratitude in this situation?

And, uh, I think being honest with your kids, you know, like, wow, today was a rough day. Everything went wrong at work. Or Today was a really rough day. The washer machine broke, um, the car broke. Now we have to take the car to a mechanic. And telling your kids that, but I'm working on this in my life. Can you help me remember to give thanks? I mean, our kids love to help us remember that's good.

Help us.

Can you help me remember to give thanks? Because then it's not like you telling them, you should be more thankful, uh, because you got that truck that you already had that somebody gave you maybe for a holiday gift. And I mean, those should we got to drop them, Sarah, because they just don't help anybody.

That's so good. I feel like we could end the podcast right there because I've got enough to go drop the shit. That's so good. It is easy to talk about comparisons like, yeah, don't you know kids in Africa are starving, you should eat your dinner. While most kids, like, their perspective is just so limited. Right. Because they're kids, and that's fine. It's their school, their family, some of the activities they're in, they don't have that broader view to compare and go, hey, I should be thankful, you know? So, um, I think one way that my kids it's been helpful, but a lot of the churches we've been involved with have had, like, that heart for the community. So taking steps to see explain why we're collecting food for a food drive, like, we should get food to the church. This is what we should do. Instead, I've been trying to pause and have those moments where it's like, well, this is why we would do something like that, because others don't have as much M as we're blessed to have right now. So what are some other ideas? I know that you've taken your kids on lots of experiences. Yeah.

Uh, man, I'm having two thoughts at the exact same time, which is rather common for me. The first thing I want to say is when your kids complain about the vegetables at dinner, and we talked about, you know, not saying kids in Africa have so much less. The kids in Africa might not like those vegetables either. So I just want to say that.

No kidding.

That's important, right? They're kids. I mean, I don't like everything. Probably you don't like everything. So it's okay for your kids not to like certain things, but, ah, back to your question. Um, I remember when Steve and I moved, uh, and lived for a short time in San Diego. And we got there, our youngest daughter was, I think eleven, and it was the first time she had really seen a lot of homeless people. She saw it on the streets, and she really became concerned, like, tell me about that. And so we explained that some people don't have a home, and she is wildly compassionate. So she started to cry, you know, and then I'll never forget, it was Christmas morning and we didn't have family with us that year. Or maybe we had I guess we had maybe two people with us that year. But she said, let's all sit down at the kitchen table and write Christmas cards for the homeless people. And I remember thinking in my heart, that's a great idea, honey, but what they really need, uh, is food or clothes or socks or whatever. But she's like, no, let's do Christmas cards. So we all sat down, we all wrote these Christmas cards, we went downtown, and you know what? Some of the people that were living on the streets literally started to cry because they had not received a Christmas card in years. Because think about it, if you don't have a home, you don't have a mailbox. And so those Christmas cards, we were asked like, can I keep this? Can I treasure this? And we were like, yes. And so that experience then translated into our kids feeling like, wow, I'm really grateful because I have a roof over my head, you know? And you don't want to overwhelm your kids with sorrow about the hard things in the world, but you do want to expose them a little bit to it. So that's one way to do it. I love what you guys are doing, Sarah, because I know you and Owen have places, um, like Park Collective, where you can help parents that are struggling. And all of that builds in your kids an attitude of gratitude.

Yeah, it's so important. Okay, so I read it was a few months ago, this most crazy article that said, this is my build up to your next question. Um, that thank you notes were a thing of the past and that you could just get by true, uh, confession. I love all those Ask Abby Etiquette, uh, columns where people are like, in the modern day, what do I do in this tricky situation? And it was one of those and it was like, you know, thank you notes really, you know, just a text, just acknowledge the gift and that sort of thing. But it just, like, hits me so wrong. Becky, what do you think about thank you note? I mean, obviously that homeless person received a Christmas card that wasn't a thank you note, but something handwritten said something about that, right? So talk a little bit about thank you notes and how you guys views those in your failure.

Okay, so for starters, I want to admit my failure in this area because I believed in thank you notes with my whole heart. And I remember, uh, when we were moving and our son had just graduated high school, and I went to move his desk and cleaned out his desk, and I found all the thank you notes that he had written that he had not sent. And I was like, he never actually sent those thank you cards. So I feel like I don't want to paint the picture that I had this altogether. In theory, I think thank you notes are a great thing. And I think actually, in today's day and age, where so much is digital, they're even more important, um, over the summer dude Perfect. Hey, dude. Perfect. I've mentioned you twice on this podcast. I mean, really, we should have you on. But anyway, my, um, grandsons love Dude Perfect. If you're not familiar with Dude Perfect and you're raising little boys, they do all these trick shots. They are Christ followers. They have a YouTube channel. Great fun. Anyway, my little grandson wanted to go, so I bought the tickets and surprised them, and their dads all took them. And the, um, kids were so excited. And so Joshua, one of my grandsons, led the charge, and each grandson made me a, uh, thank you note, and they drew pictures on them and they printed me. Me. Thank you so much. This was the best night ever. And, you know, I treasure those cards because they're from my grandkids. So all that to say, I get it. Life is crazy when you're raising kids. But maybe they can make a picture for people who bought them presents. Or at a birthday party, if everybody comes and you have a six year old who maybe has trouble printing all those words, you write the words and then just have them sign their names and send those cards. Because kids love to get cards. If they're in junior high, have them write a thank you note. I knew some people were okay. They had this discipline in their own life. They would never use a gift until they had sent the thank you note. So they held themselves accountable like that. Now you have to just figure out you don't want to be too rigid in your home. However, you can say, hey, honey, people really appreciate thank you notes, so let me help you, because kids need help with this kind of stuff.

M so good. Yeah. As you're saying that we haven't always been perfect with notes, there's one person I still think back to, I'm like, did I send them a thank you note for that wedding gift that came later? It haunts me. But then I think if I send it now, maybe it'd be so out of norm that they'd appreciate it. I don't even know. But I think it is so unexpected because, uh, our culture has changed, right? Like, it isn't as often that you get a thank you note like we used to. Maybe maybe, um, sticks out. It sticks out is even more special. Like, whoa, they actually found a stamp.

Yeah, it was interesting because during COVID I realized I'm just going to try to send people notes. And it was really interesting because my daughterinlaw has two little boys. My son and my daughterinlaw have two little boys, and they decided to make Sunday Afternoon, where you have to write a note to somebody, you know? And I loved that because the boys learned, hey, people do appreciate a handwritten note every now and then. And if you have Toddlers, obviously they can't do a handwritten note, but they can draw a picture. You know, I love the pictures I get from Toddlers. Amazing. And that's a great way to say thank you.

Yeah. Oh, that's so great. Okay, so with our remaining time, it'd be super fun to talk about some positive, practical ideas for specific ages. Because, like you said, starting with our sweet Toddlers, um, just writing one letter is going to be an alphabet letter is a big deal. So, um, what are some ideas, starting with Toddlers that you think moms could implement?

Yeah. And so with Toddlers, I mean, every mom out there who's listening knows sharing is a huge thing, right? I mean, uh, for the twos, threes, fours, and sometimes even fives, sharing is a big thing. Right? And so rather than lecturing on sharing, encourage sharing and lots of praise when they do share. Hey, you did such a great job sharing your truck with your friend. And if they can't share it when a friend comes over, then put it away and save it for a time when they're ready to share. You know, there's also, um, a little book that you can purchase anywhere. Books are sold called thank you, Bear. And I think reading little stories like that to kids is great. Um, really acknowledging and praising them when they remember to say please and thank you. And just what are you thankful for today? Even Toddlers can answer that. Even if it doesn't always make sense. You're introducing them to the question and they get used to hearing that question. And that's a beautiful thing.

HM. That's so sweet. You said it was. Thank you, Bear.

I haven't heard of that. Thank you, Bear. Cool.

All right, so then grade school, we talked about the dinner, uh, idea of having the jar, but what's something else for grade school? Kidding.

Well, let's go back to the jar for a minute because I think grade school kids love to earn rewards. So maybe take a month. November, obviously is a great month to do this, but you really can do it at, uh, any month of the year. Get a jar, put it on your kitchen counter, and have your kids find little stones, 1 st per day, and then you're going to write down what they're thankful for. Maybe it's the name of a friend or their bed or a new toy they received, or a person, their grandparents or something like that. And you put the stone in the jar. At the end of the month, when the jar is full, you reflect back on what they were thankful for, and then you go celebrate as a family. You know, maybe you do ice cream out, or maybe you take them to an amusement park, or maybe you do zoo, uh, lights, or you go to a movie as a family, but do something special to celebrate that and explain why you're celebrating it. Because they have shown gratefulness throughout the month. And my guess is, if they really like the way they're rewarded, they might say, hey, let's do that again. Another idea is obviously to trace their hands and make a board, my thankful board, where you're going to put up the things that they're thankful for. Dinnertime conversations. Gratitude needs to be a part of our family gatherings. And the places the place that families gather the most is at the dinner table, but also when you're tucking them in bed at night, when you're getting ready to pray over them, say, hey, before I pray, what are you grateful for today? What was the best part of your day? What can you give thanks for? Have them pray and give thanks, and then you pray and give thanks. And I think it's really important, both with grade school kids and toddlers, that they hear you as a mother say, I am so thankful that God gave you to me as my child because you're wonderful. I am so thankful that I get to be your mom. They need to hear you say that, because I think, especially on those rougher days, kids may wonder, am I a blessing or a problem? You know?

No kidding.

So tell them you're thankful for them, you know, tell them from the moment they're infants, even when they can't understand.

That's really sweet. I'm thinking of this meme I've seen somewhere. You've probably seen it, too. It's this woman with all of these children around her, and it's like, Lord, help me with my blessings.

Yes. But they are really blessings. I look back now on my journey as a mother, and I am so thankful that God allowed me to be a mom, because I have sat with women who have really wept before the Lord because they've not been able to be moms. And I just think saying to your kids over and over, they can't hear it too much. I'm so thankful God gave you to me.

Any age. I love that.


So good. All right. So then junior high, kiddos.

Yeah. Uh, junior high is such an interesting stage. I mean, we could do a whole podcast on junior high. However, junior high. They need experiences to internalize their gratitude. So take your junior higher to a homeless shelter. Say, hey, we're going to do something special tonight. We're going to go down to the local soup kitchen and we're going to serve. And you're probably going to get a reaction like, what? Wait, no. And be like, yeah, I just want you to experience this. Have a conversation about homelessness. Have them earn some money. Then take freezer Ziploc bags and fill those freezer Ziploc bags with soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, something fun. Maybe a McDonald's gift card or a Wendy's gift card or something like that. And then take your junior hire to a place where there are homeless people and hand them out. And then have the conversation later. Why did we do that, do you think? And ask your kids the question, um, why do you think we did that? It's so interesting because Jesus isn't going to rate us on how powerful, uh, our ministries are, how many books we write or sell, how many dollars we earn. He really evaluates our life on how well did we love the vulnerable. And a lot of times we've gotten so busy, we're not doing that well. But that is an opportunity to model for your children gratitude. Like, God has given us this amount of food, and we are so grateful. And one of the ways we can show how grateful we are is to share it with people who don't have it. And I think that's huge for junior hires.

Mhm, that tends to be maybe the age that they feel most entitled. I'm guessing. I don't have senior hires yet, but it starts to trickle in maybe even more like, you know, my room, my things.

Yup, yup.

I don't know. I'm just guessing. Maybe that's where it starts even more, but it's all of us. Okay, then. High school. High school.

Oh, man. Get your high schooler overseas. Get them on a mission trip. If I could give you one piece of advice for your high school students, it would be get them overseas on a mission trip because it is life changing for your kids. Each of our four kids went on missions trips throughout high school, and they always came back more grateful. You know, some of them went on church missions trips. Um, I remember with our youngest daughter, she, uh, didn't really resonate with the youth group, and so Steve took her along with another dad and his daughter. And they did Israel first, but then they went down to Mozambique and they had the girls work in an AIDS orphanage. It was life changing because your high schooler is old enough to understand that the rest of the world doesn't necessarily live like we do. And they're able to think through, okay, these are the problems that the rest of the world is dealing with. You are part of humanity. And so what do you think should be done about these problems and inviting them into it. There's nothing like getting your 15 year old over to a third world country. They come back and they are so grateful that they have more than one pair of jeans that they have, you know, the things that they have, their video games or whatever. But get them overseas. Because I think our kids, particularly here in America, struggle with understanding that they are part of a global culture. So it's not just me and my world. It's we're part of the global society of humanity. And yes, we're also part of the global part of the body of Christ. And so our job as followers of Jesus is to enter into those other places so that we can share and help them. I often think a lot of people get mad at God and think, well, why didn't he take care of the poor and the homeless? And I wonder, uh, God would probably say to us, well, why didn't you do it? That's why I have you there. It's not really his job. It's him working through us. It's our job. And so one of the greatest ways to build gratitude into the life of your teens is to get them overseas. I can't emphasize that enough. And then open up the conversation. How did they feel? What did they experience? What was hard for them? What was easy for them? What would they do differently moving forward? Ask questions, don't preach?

That's right. I love that. And I also like that example of if one of your kiddos it's just difficult if a parent can go with them. I've had several friends that have high schoolers that did that. And it's just a cool bonding experience, too, right. To have that shared experience, but then walk through what that meant. So I like that idea of the parent going to striking experience. That's really good. Well, my goodness. Well, I think we've shared a lot of good ideas. The admonition you gave us from Paul, that to give things in all circumstances, I think, um, it's a lifetime journey, right. Like, for us as parents, right. To continue sharing that. Okay. I have one more question I'm going to throw at you. Not on the script. Um, as a grandparent, do you have any tips? Because I know we have some grandparents that listen or will be grandparents. Anything there, um, as far as gratitude and cultivating that with grandkids, you know.

Um, they need to see your life, and so they need to see that you have an attitude of gratitude. And so as you get older, I think for a lot of people that are older, there can be a tendency to start grumbling. You know, I've met a lot of cranky older people, and that's not what we want to model for our kids. And so, um, we want to say, yeah, this didn't go well today, but I am so thankful for whatever and say it over and over. I once knew a missionary man who every day, I mean, probably ten times a day he would say, isn't God so good? And what a beautiful way to model for your grandkids. Like, I'm so thankful. Greet them at the door with a big smile, a big hug, and tell them, I'm so grateful you're here. I'm so thankful you're here. I was just away, um, in another part of the country and I was speaking and then, uh, my daughter's family met me there cause her kiddos were in a wedding and so I was sharing an airbnb with them and, um, because my role was to get those little kiddos down the aisle for the wedding.

Were you successful?

It was they all went and they did it with great attitudes. But anyway, uh, in the airbnb, um, my little sweet granddaughter Kindley came out one morning and my Bible was on the couch where I had been reading my Bible and I said, oh, kin, let me move that so you can, uh, play with your coloring book. Um, that's Mimi's Bible. And she said, oh, my mommy reads her Bible too, every morning. Mimi and so, you know, a lot of times we think our kids, our grandkids are not watching. They're watching and they're listening. So be happy and be grateful for all God's done in your life because they're going to catch that.

Mhm. That's so true. I love that. What a sweet memory. And way to go on getting them.

Down the aisle, I gotta tell you. Okay, I'll just throw this in as an extra. I know we're out of time, but so they had little change purses, the girls did. And one of the little girls was really afraid to go down the aisle. So I bought a whole big thing of smarties and I emptied the packages in their change purse and then I told them, when you come down the aisle, you're going to sit right next to me me. And then you can have your purse with your candy in it. So all during the wedding, they would pick one smart answer. So it worked. They were good as gold, little angels. And I told them I was so proud of them and gave them each a Target gift card so they could go buy something.

Uh, hopefully they're thankful for that because probably, uh, later on they'll look back and be like, I had the coolest. Mimi.

To their credit, they all said thank you. But I mean, each situation like that is a joy. So enjoy it and be grateful in the moment.

I love that. Well, we are out of time, so, um, I am going to close this in prayer because I need God's help just like everyone else in modeling this for our kids. And I think you've shared a lot of great stuff, Becky. So thank you for all of these tips. It's really good. But. We do need God's help to live it out, right? Yeah, we do. Heavenly Father, we do have so much to be grateful for. Um, forgive us for the times that we forget all of the things, all of the blessings that You've provided for us and our families, um, and in you and Your gift of salvation and the power that you give us to live these things out. Lord, we know it's so important to live this out in front of our kids, to be, um, a true model of gratitude for what You've given us and the life we have. So we ask that you'd help us to do that. Help us to have creative thoughts in our life as we go about our day and modeling that thankfulness. And give us bravery, maybe, to do things that are different from our routine so that we can have, um, that gratitude in our homes and our relationships with our kids. Lord, we do thank you for all of the gifts You've given us. Help us to keep those front and center, even on the hard days, Lord. And thank you so much for, um, your gift of God's love and forgiveness for our sins. It's in Jesus name we pray. Amen.

Amen. Hey, friends, thanks for joining us today for this episode of The Connected Mom podcast. And we are hoping that you're going to join us again next Thursday for another episode of The Connected Mom podcast. And hey, if you like what you're hearing, would you leave a review on Apple podcasts for us and also recommend it to your friends? We love joining you every week. We're here for you, we're praying for you, and we're you on. Thanks for joining us.