Gratitude – the quality of being thankful, readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness. If you are a parent, then you know that gratitude is something that is taught and not innately part of our DNA. Last Wednesday my six old year son had a meltdown about not having a certain toy and having to wait until Christmas to receive that toy. We had a lengthy discussion in the car about being grateful. I’m not sure how much stuck but at least we are planting seeds. What better time to discuss grateful then now during the Thanksgiving holiday season. I believe some of the tips listed below will help you have similar discuss about gratitude with your little ones as well.
As parents we are always modeling behavior for our children, the good, bad and ugly. We cannot expect our children to be grateful if we ourselves do not live a lifestyle of gratitude. How do we interact with one another in our homes? Are we content with what we have or are we constantly looking for the biggest and best thing? Are we chronic complainers? These are great questions to ponder as we strive to be thankful in every area of our lives. Our children are not only watching but listening as well. Let’s fill their hearts with words of thankfulness and thoughtfulness. If and when we do hit a rough patch let’s strive to pause, pray and ask the Lord for help. In addition, take inventory of the “little” things in your life that you can be grateful for and share those things with your children. By doing this we are showing our kids that we can control our tongues and that gratitude is a choice.
Seek ye first the kingdom of God and all these things will be added unto you. Matthew 6:33
Talk about it
With Christmas quickly approaching the requests for things are coming in non-stop. One day I said “Matthew you need to be grateful for what you have, you don’t need two Beyblade stadiums”. He gave me a puzzled look which meant “I still don’t understand why I don’t need two stadiums”. As a result we began to discuss needs and wants and they how intersect with gratitude. As parents we want to give our children the world, however, there must be some balance. We want to encourage our children to think about what they have, why they might need more and is it urgent that they have it now. They can begin to process between wants and needs. Being able to differentiate between the two can 1. Teach our children to grateful for what they have and 2. Be appreciative for the extra that they receive.
This past summer Matthew and I had the privilege of volunteering with Feed My Starving Children through our local church. It was such a great experience for both of us because it was time spent together helping others. Matthew fully understood that we were prepping and bagging meals for children who had nothing to eat. The focus was taken off of what we wanted and shifted towards others. In essence we were doing what Jesus commanded which is to Love others as we love ourselves. When we begin to see that the world is bigger than our perceived issues and problems then it causes a shift in our hearts. We become grateful for the things that we have and aware of those who are without. This is a learned behavior because at our core we can be very self centered and selfish. By placing Matthew in an environment where he is forced to see beyond himself I am planting seeds of service and generosity. Gratitude breeds generosity and service is love.
All throughout scripture, particularly in the book of Psalms, it tell us to give thanks to Lord. I believe that these scriptures are great reminders of the love that the Lord has shown to us in spite of our actions. In addition, these scriptures are commands for the believer. It is not always easy or we might not always feel like it but when we turn our focus to Christ we are reminded that His great love towards us. In a world where the search for love and self-worth is at a high demand this is so encouraging. So with our children we remind them that they are loved, they are valued and their Heavenly Father has blessed them beyond what they can fathom. These are all great reasons to be grateful! Again this is a change in our thought patterns and we all know that our thoughts will eventually dictate our behavior. A very practical and simple scripture to teach our children is “O give thanks to the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever.” Psalm 136:1
I encourage you to try some of these tips out to encourage your children to live a life of gratitude. In our home we are a work in process but the end result will be great.