In these busy months, when we are busy preparing for Thanksgiving and Christmas, it is so easy to get caught up in the materialism of the season. I’m spending some time pondering this question: How do I cultivate gratitude in my children?
While I definitely do not have all the answers, I’ve thought of a few ideas:
Examine Your Own Attitude
Are you too busy? Are you pushy? Do you want what you want right now? Do you have an ever-expanding list of wants? If we aren’t thankful and do not have a grateful attitude, we can’t expect it from our children! When I see an ungrateful attitude pop-up in my child, I try to step back and evaluate myself. Unfortunately, I can often figure out where it came from! (Don’t despair! Thankfully, God has lavished His grace upon us! Read about it in Ephesians 1:8)
Serve Someone Else
The quickest way to combat selfishness is to serve someone other than ourselves! There are so many ways to get involved. Consider including your child in these simple activities:
- Operation Christmas Child: Fill a shoebox for a needy child.
- Toys for Tots: Buy a toy for someone else.
- Adopt a family: Find a family in your community and share with them.
- Visit a nursing home: Make a craft, play a game, read a book, or simply share a conversation with someone.
It’s easy to come up with an idea to serve someone, but it can be much harder to actually do it. Take a step of faith and serve!!
Teach Your Child to Say “Thank You” Early and Often
When the girls were babies, I taught them a few words in sign language. The first being “Please” and the second being “Thank you”. Although I still give plenty of reminders, I am seeing some fruit from this process! Also, consider including your child in writing thank you notes — even a preschooler can scribble a special “note” (with your interpretation, of course)!
Make a special time during the day when you share something that has happened and tell why you are thankful. Even in hard times or difficult circumstances, you can teach your child to be grateful. Passionate Homemaking has a wonderful article about giving thanks and includes a story from the life of Matthew Henry. He had this to say after being robbed:
“Let me be thankful, first, because I was never robbed before; second, because although they took my purse, they did not take my life; third, because, although they took my all, it was not much; and fourth, because it was I who was robbed, not I who robbed!”
Keep a Record of Your Thanks
There are many ways to do this, but the point is to have a written record of thanks you can reflect upon next year and the year after that and so on. Here is a simple notebook we made.
Give Thanks in Prayer
It is easy for prayer to become selfish. I noticed one day as we were praying, my children’s prayers were all about asking for things and not about thanking God for His blessings. Now, we brainstorm and discuss what we are thankful for before we pray.
“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” Colossians 3:17
How do you encourage thankfulness in your children?
Learn more about my eBook-Thanksgiving Heart: Cultivating Gratitude in Young Children