Why You Can’t Buy Gratitude At The Dollar Store

“It might sound simplistic, but I believe the cure to our kids wanting more starts with teaching them to be thankful for what they already have. “ -Kristen Welch, Raising Grateful Kids In An Entitled World

gratitudeWhen my oldest son was two years old, going anywhere with him was a nightmare. He didn’t like to be dragged along on errands so he would whine and fight and often he would simply run away from me as fast as he could. What better way to make boring places fun than to play catch-me-if-you-can with your frenzied mother?

I tried everything I could think of to encourage him to behave. All the other moms of young kids I saw out in public seemed relaxed and in charge, their adorable children smiling nicely up at them or conveniently napping in the stroller. How could I get my kid to act like that?

And then I discovered the gleeful place known as the Dollar Store. Little kids love the Dollar Store. It’s filled with cool, cheap stuff that’s all placed low to the ground so the kids can peruse at their leisure. Suddenly all the old, boring toys at home pale in comparison to the brand new, awesome stuff you can find at the Dollar Store. And generally, because it’s inexpensive, if there’s something they want it’s not that big a deal for mommy or daddy to let them have it.

I began to stop at the Dollar Store during most of my errands so that my son could pick out something new to entertain himself with. New toys in hand, my son was occupied and generally happy while I was free to check things off my “to do” list. Plus, if he did begin to act up, I could threaten to take his brand new toy away. That usually settled him. We were both happy.

Until one day, after a trip to the mall with my son, my husband wondered aloud why our child had several new toys. I told him, “It’s okay. Just cheap stuff from the Dollar Store. Only cost me $5 for all of it.”

“But he doesn’t know that,” my husband replied. “All he knows is that you went out for a little bit and bought him five new things!”

Huh. I hadn’t thought of that. I was so happy with the results of my compromise  that the consequences hadn’t even occurred to me.

I realized that in my son’s eyes, his misbehaviour in public meant that mommy bought him a bunch of new stuff every time we went somewhere. This was definitely not a lesson I wanted to teach him. Settling for peace in the short term was going to mean I would have major problems with my son in the long term. His expectations for what he was entitled to were skyrocketing, and it was all my fault.


Raising children who are thankful for what we’ve provided them with instead of always demanding more is a tremendous challenge. Young kids are notoriously self-centered. Instilling grateful attitudes in children involves training them to go counter to their own natures. But it’s essential that we do. We don’t do our children any favours by giving them the false idea that the world will revolve around them after they grow up and leave our homes. Gratitude, therefore, is a learned skill and it’s difficult to teach; you can make your kids write thank you notes but you can’t make them actually feel thankful.

So, how do we get our kids to to be thankful for what we’ve provided them with instead of constantly demanding more? It can be hard for children to truly understand why they need to be grateful at all because, in most cases, they lack perspective of what life is like outside of their own experiences.

We’ve tried to make our home into an environment that encourages our kids to develop grateful attitudes. It’s important for us as parents to model the behaviour we want our kids to imitate. Some of the ways we do this include no longer buying things we don’t need, making sure to say “please” and “thank you,” giving our kids regular chores they must do, talking about what life is like for others in the world, and making efforts to help those less fortunate. We try not to compare ourselves to the people who have more than we do, instead we think a lot about the people who have less.

I can’t guarantee that when my kids are adults they will lead lives filled with gratitude. But setting up our home as an environment where gratitude can flourish is the best way to lead them in that path.

And it definitely doesn’t involve unnecessary trips to the Dollar Store.


Inspiring an Attitude of Gratitude – by Alison
Rasisng Grateful Kids – by amanda
Why You Can’t Buy Gratitude At The Dollar Store – by Andrea
Missing – Gratefulness in our home – by Ange
Choosing Gratitude – by Angela
Gratefullness – by chaley
5 Steps to Gratitude-Fille Family – by Christa
Practicing Grateful Parenting – by Dana
Sing a Song – by Hannah
Cultivating gratitude in our family – by Jamie
Gratefulness In Our Home – by Jana
Gratefulness In Our Home – by Jana
Let It Begin With Me – by Jen
Choosing Gratefulness – by Jennifer
Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World – The Book – by jeri
Eradicating Entitlement – What are you rooted in? – by Jessica
Gratefulness in our home – by Kate
The Problem With Entitlement is that it begins with us – by Katelyn
7 Unusual Ways I Know How to Be Grateful – by Kathryn
Raising Grateful Kids – by Keri
How My Children Remind Me to Pray with Gratitude – by Kishona
Grateful – by Kristy
Entitlement: The Ugly Truth of a Beautiful Lie – by Leigha
The Most Important Thing You Can Do To Raise Grateful Kids – by Lindsey
Dear Son: How Do I Teach You To Be Grateful Without Guilt? – by Marie Osborne
Gratitude, A Practical Definition – by Mia
Cultivating Gratitude in Our Home – by Nancy
Learning Gratitude through Chronic Illness – by Rachel
Being Grateful – by Rebecca
I’ve Found Something I Can’t Live Without – by Sarah
The Power of Naming our Gifts – by Sarah
Outfitted – by Sarah Jo
Growing Gratitude in our Family – by Sondra
Teaching Gratefulness – by Stephanie
How Grateful Looks From Here – by Alison
Fighting Entitlement in Children and All of us – by Leah
Entitlement Problem – by Karrie
Grateful Today – by Krystal


    • bumblebird says:

      Kristen Welch is right, a shift in perspective is the best way to teach gratitude to our kids! Thanks for reading my post 🙂

  1. Leigha Balchus says:

    I LOVE this, and can TOTALLY relate! It’s so easy to give into whining and complaining for my own temporary comfort. It’s a battle I face more times than I like to count. The struggle is real. Thanks so much for sharing! I greatly enjoyed your post! #RaisingGratefulKids

    • bumblebird says:

      It’s so true that it’s easier to give in, and the funny thing is I didn’t even realize I was doing it until my husband pointed it out! Glad you enjoyed my post 🙂

    • bumblebird says:

      Very true. Now that my son is older we have more conversations about gratitude than when he was little. But it is important to set the right foundation when kids are little, I think. Thanks for the comment 🙂

  2. Jeri says:

    What a wake up call! Gratitude is learned by littles. It doesn’t come naturally. Trust me, it’s tough now but it will be worth it later. Because their wants just get bigger as they get older, and cost more that a dollar! The Dollar Store is awesome, though. 😉

  3. Cindy Magee says:

    Oh, this is a constant battle at our house. We sometimes will go around the table at dinner time and announce all the things we are thankful for. It used to start with material things but I’ve seen a shift in my kids that the thankful lists are moving to being thankful each family member, pets, teachers, etc. Makes my heart happy. 🙂

    • bumblebird says:

      Well, I certainly admire your efforts for persisting! And I’m glad you are seeing progress. Sometimes I wonder if I’m even getting anywhere at all…it’s so true that it can feel like a constant battle! But then you have one of those little moments where your kid expresses gratitude for something unexpectedly and you know it’s worth all the effort!

Leave a Reply