As we celebrated Christmas this past year, I was confronted with a stark realization: my kids are ungrateful. On more than one occasion this holiday season, my kids went up and asked family members, “Do you have any other gifts for me?” This, after they received more toys during a singular Christmas than I received as a child over a decade.

My face turned red and I immediately apologized for their behavior. Fortunately, my family members wrote it off as typical behavior for a five and three-year-old. But I’m worried about what it signifies and I want to confront it and nip it in the bud.

Have similar experiences happened with your kids? A sense that no matter what they have, they always want more?

Here are some ways that I hope to teach my kids an attitude of gratitude.

1. Take Stock of What You Have

This is not making a list of all the toys, books, clothes, games, and electronics that you have in your house. It’s a way to teach your kids to look at the bigger picture. Let’s face it — they’re kids. They don’t have the perspective that adults do on working hard to get the things they want. If you are able to create a culture in your home of work ethic, rewarding yourself when you accomplish something, and taking nothing for granted, that will infect and affect your children.

2. Do More With Less

Many of our homes overflow with toys. When the kids are playing, you might literally have to step over the toys littering the floor to avoid breaking an ankle, or worse. It might be a good idea to begin putting toys away so kids learn to see that it only takes a few items to make them happy. Oftentimes, the more they have to play with, the harder it becomes to focus on just one toy. Instead, they are always reaching for the next thing.

3. Reinforce How Fortunate We Are

This is easy. At dinnertime, bedtime, or anytime during the day, simply remind your children how lucky you are. Saying things like, “We’re so fortunate to have a clean, comfortable house” or, “We’re so lucky to have so many people that love us” will put the thought in your child’s head that these are truly the things to feel fortunate about — not toys and gifts.

4. Deny Them

I don’t mean this in a mean-spirited way. I mean this in a literal way. Children that go to the store and demand a toy each and every time you go become spoiled. They expect a toy or a game and it becomes less special and more routine. If your children received a toy for a birthday or holiday, or when they do something extraordinary, then it remains special and unique. This type of arrangement will help them maintain a healthy understanding of how meaningful it is to be given something they want.

5. Give to Those In Need

Sometimes our children need a visual example of how lucky they are. One of the ways to accomplish that is to find a way as a family to volunteer with the poor and underprivileged in your community. It will help your kids see that there are many in our society who live differently from you and need your time, care, and concern to try and improve their lives. This is not a “Scared Straight” moment. This is a time to teach your children the importance of trying to make a difference in their community and take stock of how many blessings they have.

How do you help your kids learn gratitude?

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