Teaching Gratitude (and other life lessons)

October is fast approaching, and that means my daughter is going to be turning four. There will be a birthday party, and since she is now old enough to say thank you on her own, I dread the thought of “making her say thanks”.

Luckily, I recently read a book full of great tips to teach children gratitude and other life lessons (like integrity, commitment, and forgiveness). Now I feel armed with advice to share using the suggested month long activities, and confident that I’m on the right track to raise lifelong learners who are full of good character.

When You Say Thank You, Mean It

Source: Facebook

The book, When You Say “Thank You”, Mean It was written by Mary O’Donohue after her son received a gift and she needed to remind him about saying thanks. With her husband, they created a “gratitude month” and it stuck with their son. Later, when both of her children were a little bit older, they developed a list of values that were important to their family and designed exercises to help instill these in their children.

Admittedly, when I first got the book I expected it to be laid out with values that aligned with times of the year, so I figured I wouldn’t get to gratitude until November or December. The great thing I found is that the values aren’t matched up with a certain month. If you want to put them in place, you just work in any order that works for your family.

For instance, it might make sense to start with forgiveness. Although When You Say “Thank You”, Mean It is geared toward children 5 and up, I thought I could incorporate some of the exercises from this chapter into talks with my (almost) four year old. Talking nightly about someone we should forgive seemed like an easy enough start. One night, it might have been the girl in her class last year who pushed. Another it was her ‘lil brother for biting. And one night, I learned that I too needed the lesson and talked about needing to forgive someone at work. O’Donohue suggests that after talking about it, you say, “I let it go.” How freeing!

There are 11 other values in this program that can be used with your family. While they may not be the ones your family values, you can pick and chose what works. O’Donohue definitely has something great here–helping parents raise children with values and that they can make a difference in the world. Truly a good find.

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You can find out more about Mary O’Donohue and her book When You Say Thank You, Mean It by visiting www.maryodonohue.com. You can also follow her on Twitter or “Like” When You Say “Thank You”, Mean It on Facebook. The book retails for $16.95.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book and was asked to write a review; however, all opinions and attempts to raise kids with character are 100% my own.


  1. This looks like a book I need to read!

  2. Alexandra Clatterbuck says:

    Def need to read this book!!

  3. this is great

  4. Sounds great. I may need to work on this more with my boys as they recently told me “is that all” after receiving some gifts!

  5. Sounds like a book I need to pick up for my kids.

  6. Sounds like a great book to have handy. Thanks for the suggestion.

  7. thanks so much for providing such an awesome blog i really love reading in on the newest things =) -Krystal rivera

  8. Wow – I am so impressed. And not really that much about the book, but about you and your awesome parenting skills. They way you acknowledged your own need to forgive someone in the teaching of your child shows what a good, sincere person you are, and I’m sure taught an even greater lesson to your child. Thank you for sharing!

  9. Sounds like a wonderful book. The art of thankfulness is a dying one 🙂

  10. This sounds awesome. I don’t want to take away Ms O’Donahue’s royalties, but I think this sounds like a book that should be in every new mom’s welcome baby kit she receives in the hospital. There are so many, so many children who have no gratitude, don’t know what forgiveness is ~ not real forgiveness anyway. I have heard so many times that our children are “The Entitled Generation”. This is a HORRIBLE title! Yet, there are so many children making this title a reality. We, the parents, are the only ones who can truly change this. This book sounds like a manual on how to do just that.

  11. Stephanie Phelps says:

    That is a very good lesson because it is hard to forgive and I think it is easier the younger you learn it. I think I am going to have to get this book.

  12. Teaching my 1 year old to be thankful is a challenge!

  13. It is truly important that children learn these lessons in order that they become responsible and respectful adults. Thanks.

  14. Nanda Permata Putri says:

    waoww, i want this wonderfull book!

  15. Karen Hand says:

    I’ve got to get this book for my daughter-in-law as her children are still quite young.

  16. So many kids could use some help in this area nowadays, great that someone wrote a book to help out parents with this.

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