Raising Kids Who Say “Thank You” and Actually Mean It

We talk to many parents who tell us their kids are not grateful. Not only do their children expect to be fed and clothed, but they expect to eat whatever they want and be clothed with the latest brands. They also expect to be given computers and phones, and signed up for (and “taxi-ed” to!) all the extra-curriculars they want to participate in.  In the midst of all this there appears to be no sense of gratitude!

“How do we get them to be more thankful?” is a common question at our workshops. We respond to this question with three suggestions that have helped parents see a significant change in fairly short order. See if any of these might help you:

First, kids who experience hard work learn to appreciate it from others. You can raise the bar on your child’s responsibility concerning chores and finances! For example, a child who has been given the responsibility of preparing and cleaning up a meal begins to understand how much work and planning is involved in mealtime. Once that child knows how much time and effort is needed, he is much more inclined to be grateful when he gets served a meal. A child who is required to use his own hard-earned money to get the toys he wants (instead of just automatically getting them from you) is more likely to feel grateful when he is given gifts. Children who are given responsibilities tend to better appreciate the gifts and blessings that come their way unearned, or undeserved.

Second, kids develop grateful hearts when they feel appreciated. Kids don’t learn to thank others if they are rarely thanked themselves. Finding ways for growing kids to be truly responsible (needed) for household chores will position them to be the recipients of gratitude from others. Once you position them…then energetically THANK THEM!  (For example, when your children help with a meal let them know how appreciative you are and why it is a blessing to your family. See the ABCs of Affirmation)

Finally, kids learn gratefulness when parents regularly model it. This sounds obvious, but it’s easy to miss – instead of showing gratitude for jobs or careers, parents often complain. Instead of expressing thankfulness for the blessing of family and safety, we tend to take these things for granted. Ask yourself this question: “When was the last time my child saw and heard my heartfelt expression of gratitude for my work outside the home?” 

Let’s summarize these ideas to get you started down the road of building grateful hearts in your family:

  • Give kids responsibility for their lives, and opportunities to serve the needs of others.
  • Express your appreciation when they serve. Habitually thank them and affirm when they help out, and you’ll develop grateful kids.
  • Model gratitude in your own life so your kids see it!  Let your children hear you being thankful. “So thankful for air conditioning on this hot day!” or, when the recipient of a carpool ride,  “Thank you so much for giving Billy a ride to soccer tonight- it made life so much easier for us.”

“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
1 Thessalonians 5:18

Struggling with entitlement in your home? Dig into our online course The Entitlement Fix: Growing Hard Work and Gratitude in Your Kids.

WHAT-EVER!! Ideas for responding to sass with class

What-EVER! (with an eye roll)

You’ve seen it a hundred, maybe even a thousand times. Your child doesn’t like what you’ve said and responds with a head tilt, and eye roll, and the grand pronouncement, “What-EVER!!!!”

What do you do when this happens? The tendency is to shut it down, NOW!  But your angry response communicates to your child that she is in control of your emotions. This gives her the “powerjolt” she needs to pull this behavior out again the next time she’s frustrated with you.

In this Q & A, Jim and Lynne take 7 minutes to respond to this question from a mom who is tired of her 8-year-old daughter’s sass. You’ll hear some quick pointers for how to respond with grace while keeping a child accountable for better behavior.


As you respond, you’ll learn to communicate:

  1. You’re SAFE with me: Stay calm as you take a deep breath. Your kids are not your report card.
  2. You are LOVED even if you sass: Express empathy. “This is really hard, isn’t it? If it’s hard for me, I’m sure it’s hard for you.”
  3. You are CAPABLE: Ask a question. “You don’t like how this is going. What would be a better way?”

We hope as you listen to this audio you are encouraged in your parenting!  As you learn to follow these three steps to decrease the “sass-level” in your house, take joy in the small victories.  We are here to help you in any way we can as you seek to grow your connected family.

Frustrated by constant discipline challenges? Take 15 minutes to read our free ebook 4 Messages All Children Long to Hear: A Discipline That Connects Overview.

Are We Raising Animals?

A more thoughtful approach to addressing manners with kids.

There are so many little things our kids do that drive us crazy!  Often in an effort to get the behavior to stop we react quickly and without thinking.  We use body language and words that convey messages like, “You are a big problem!” or “You embarrass me!” Read what one dad had to say about an interaction with his son that combined correction with connection simply by changing his posture, facial expression, and choosing his words carefully.

“Are we raising animals??”

I glared across the table and asked my wife this question.

After you disconnect, it’s time to really connect!

Fun campfire questions you can use anytime.

Summer is here!  While it may seem like you are constantly battling the screens at your house… it doesn’t have to be that way.  Sitting around a campfire, going on a long road trip, or heading out on a challenging hike are just a few of the opportunities you have to connect better with those you love.  So sit back, shut down the screens, and watch the stories, laughs, and jokes roll when you bust out these fun (and thoughtful, and serious) questions Connected Families has compiled just for you!

5 Ways to T.E.A.C.H. Your Kids Values

There are lots of things we want our kids to learn, from how to ride a bike to how to be a faith-filled, responsible adult.

Some things (like getting dressed) are easy to teach. But as a follower of Christ, how do you teach your children the values they’ll need to walk with God and fulfill their calling? We’ve found the T.E.A.C.H. principles are a helpful tool for passing faith and values. Consider a value you’d love for your children to embrace, and apply these principles as you make a plan to proactively nurture what matters to your family.

Talk with your children

The Four Strengths of Every Great Family

D6 Podcast

Jeremy Lee, from D6 Family Podcast, interviews the co-founders of Connected Families, Jim & Lynne Jackson.

During this 20 minute podcast, Jim and Lynne share the Connected Families parenting framework, which focuses on building a strong parent-child relationship.

If you want to be encouraged and challenged in your parenting journey, listen in! We are SO EXCITED to partner with you as you lead your family with grace.

Welcoming a New Sibling into the Family

It doesn’t have to cause resentment!

Adding a sibling can be a rough transition for the whole family, especially for children. You may imagine how fun it will be to see your kids playing and exploring the world together, but when the new addition actually arrives it can be a tough transition!

This week I’d like to introduce to you two families with two different experiences and how they worked ahead of time to help smooth the addition of a new sibling.

How Oranges Can Teach Compromise

Use creativity to help kids find a Win-Win!

Your kids are arguing – (again!) – about what game to play, who got the bigger serving of pie, and who had more time playing video games. You want to teach your kids the valuable skill of compromise, but you feel helpless and frustrated as your kids tune out your well-intended words.

What comes naturally is to tell your kids, with exasperation, to “Figure it out! Or NO ONE is getting what they want.” The problem with that? Compromise and problem-solving don’t come naturally to all kids – it is a learned skill.

Rather than lecturing or making demands when kids are arguing, we’ve found that the very best time to teach is outside of the moment. Yes – doing this takes planning. And yes – your kids might object to your efforts. But it is worth it!

When to Intervene in Sibling Squabbles

They’re at it again. You can hear them in the next room and you want it to stop. Now. Your children are having a heated debate that seems to be escalating by the minute. Should you intervene or should you let them fight it out?

As parents we all long for our kids to get along and be friends, but their fighting can seem to be a constant negative and never-ending cycle. In our decades of coaching and teaching parents (and raising our own squabbling crew!), we have found a few guiding principles to help you as you steer your kids towards peace and connection at home.   

Only intervene when it is obviously necessary.

The temptation for many parents, when they hear their children in conflict, is to intervene quickly and make it stop. You want quiet. You want peace. You have things to do and you don’t have time for this! However – when we intervene too soon or too often we are cheating our children out of a great opportunity to learn lifelong negotiation and peacemaking skills. These clashes when they are young help equip our kids with the necessary skills they will need to use in the future when they disagree with a co-worker or friend or are engaged in what seems like the hundredth “debate” they are having with a spouse.

WHEN, then, is it “obviously necessary”?

How Expecting Your Kids to Fight Can be a Good Thing

Don’t miss a great opportunity to prepare kids for life.

“He hit me!!!” “She took my marker!”

Have you ever thought – “I am just refereeing 24/7, and I certainly have better things to do with my day. This is not okay! The fighting needs to stop.”

Unfortunately, the more we have an expectation that our children shouldn’t fight, the harder it is to be prepared for the challenge of conflict.

The reality is that kids fight all the time! University of Illinois professor and family researcher Laurie Kramer, Ph.D., has found that siblings between 3 and 7 years old engage in some kind of conflict an average of 3.5 times an hour. The youngest kids (those in the 2 to 4 age group) are the most conflict-prone at 6.3 conflicts per hour–or more than one clash every 10 minutes.*