Your Questions AnsweredQ: What are some ways I can teach my children to be grateful?
A: Wouldn’t it be wonderful if our children just popped out of the womb as kind, appreciative little human beings who always remembered the magic words: please and thank you? Unfortunately, our sin nature makes this notion almost laughable. Any parent will tell you that it’s natural for children to act selfish and entitled. Gratitude, on the other hand, is something that has to be taught. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus,” (NIV). I believe it’s God’s will for us to be thankful in all circumstances because that is what’s best for us. Think about it. Selfish, ungrateful people are always frustrated and disappointed with life. In contrast, grateful people are generally happy, satisfied, and content.
While most of us have a handle on teaching our children manners (remember the magic words?), it can be a bit trickier to instill in them a genuine spirit of gratitude where they are truly appreciative for the blessings in their life and recognize them as ultimately coming from God (James 1:17 & 1 Corinthians 4:7).
So, let’s get down to brass tacks. What are some ways we can teach our children to be grateful? First, if we want our children to have happy and thankful lives, then we need to model that for them ourselves. Prayer time can be a wonderful opportunity to do this. When we pray, we can model a spirit of gratitude by beginning our prayers with thanksgiving. Be specific! Tell God, in front of your children, what things are you thankful for. As we attribute the good things in our lives as coming from God, our kids will catch on.
GratitudeIn addition to prayer, dialog with your kids about what they are thankful for. Perhaps you try building gratitude into your daily routine. For example, you may begin a tradition at dinner time were each family member shares “three good things” they’re grateful for that day. Try recording these blessings in a gratitude journal that they can look back at from time to time.
As children get older, providing them with opportunities to serve is a wonderful way to foster a spirit of gratitude. Serving others also helps develop a variety of other godly character traits including empathy and compassion. With the holidays just around the corner, Heart2Heart has two such service opportunities for you to get involved in: Christmas Caroling at the Windsor Elk Grove Rehabilitation Center and a toy drive for the St. John’s Women and Children’s Shelter (more details to follow).
Finally, make it your goal to not spoil your children. Sometimes you just have to say no! Spoiled children have lost the ability to appreciate what they have. There’s nothing wrong with making them earn something they really want by saving their money or helping out around the house. Encouraging older children to get a job and requiring them to chip in towards necessities like clothing or car insurance can also go a long way towards teaching them an attitude of gratitude.
For more ideas on how to teach your children to be grateful, be sure to join us at Heart2Heart on November 21st when we’ll give you an opportunity to share ways in which you practice gratitude in your homes!
Coming Next MonthWe’ll talk about how to motivate your children to do their chores as well as ways in which we can monitor their progress and keep track of it all!
If you have a question that you would like answered, please email the steering team at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or, to submit your question anonymously, drop it off in the “Food for Thought” food truck at the next H2H.