We’ve all seen it before: Whiny, selfish, entitled children pitching fits when they don’t get their way. And, sadly, many of them never outgrow it. An alarming number of adults act that way these days, as well. So how do we combat that? How can we raise our progeny to be moral, upstanding members of society? It all begins with teaching kids to be thankful.
7 Simple Ways to Instill Gratitude in Your Children
Whoever observed that, when it comes to children, “More is caught than is taught” was right. Your admonitions to “remember to say thank you” will fall flat if your kids don’t see you living it out and leading the way. So be generous with your heartfelt expressions of appreciation. Thank family members, next-door neighbors, military vets, bank tellers, restaurant waiters, police officers, grocery checkers, and anybody else that serves, assists, or does anything nice for you. Do it vocally. Do it consistently. And mean it.
“Join one another in following my example, brothers, and carefully observe those who walk according to the pattern we set for you.” (Philippians 3:17)
Discuss Things to be Thankful For
Talk to your children — in the morning, in the evening, sitting around the table, driving in the car. (Deuteronomy 11:19) Ask lots of open-ended questions. Talk about their day, paying special attention to the good things that happened: the things that made them smile or laugh or feel happy. It’s okay to discuss the troubling concerns, as well, but do your best to end discussions on a positive note by recalling the good stuff and dwelling on it as much as you can.
“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” (Philippians 4:8)
Count Your Blessings
I love that old Bing Crosby song from White Christmas: “When I’m worried and I can’t sleep, I count my blessings instead of sheep.” That’s a wonderful practice. Make a habit of it. Turn it into a game. If you really set your mind on it, you can almost always find more things to be grateful for than stuff to worry about. So leave your worries at the foot of the cross, and count your blessings instead.
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6)
Look for Silver Linings
The Bible tells us to “Consider it all joy when we encounter various trials.” (James 1:2-3) That may not seem like the natural response to hardship, but even when times are difficult, we should look for things to be grateful for. We can be thankful for the lessons we’re learning. For the wisdom and maturity that can come as a result of going through tough situations. For the grace we receive to endure the trial. We can be grateful for the peace God gives in the midst of it. For the sympathy we’ll be able to show toward others in similar circumstances. And we can be glad that far worse things that could have happened didn’t.
“In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in various trials so that the proven character of your faith—more precious than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:6-7)
Sing with Grateful Hearts
Music has a way of filling the heart with love, joy, peace, and gratitude for being alive. Maybe that’s why God tells us to “Enter into His gates with thanksgiving and into His courts with praise” and to “come before his presence with singing.” (Psalm 100)
“Speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your hearts to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 5:19-20)
Write Thank You Notes
Expressing gratitude in the moment is important, and texting or phoning words of appreciation are nice practices, as well. But nothing beats an old-fashioned thank you note penned by hand and sent through the mail. Teach your children this lost art of letter writing, and their thoughtful words can be kept and treasured for years. Need help? You’ll find tips for writing, with multiple examples to guide you and free printable thank you cards in a variety of styles, by following this link.
“See what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand!” (Galatians 6:11)
Pay It Forward
Another way to increase your children’s alertness to the kindnesses others show them is by teaching them to do thoughtful things for others. Teach them to make a habit of looking for ways to bless others, even anonymously. By doing this, they’ll learn to treat those around them the way they wish to be treated — including recognizing and showing appreciation for their small acts of service or encouraging words.
“Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:32)
Remember to Thank God
I’ve attended many a church service that began or ended with the Doxology: “Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow….” That’s a good reminder of the ultimate source of all our blessings. “Every good and perfect gift” we’ve ever received has come down from above. (James 1:17) We own absolutely nothing of value that can’t be traced back to Him. (1 Corinthians 4:7) So as long as we are practicing gratitude, shouldn’t we begin and end with our Creator? (Revelation 21:6)
“Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; His loving devotion endures forever.” (1 Chronicles 16:34)
The world needs less selfish entitlement and more sincere gratitude. We should do our part to tip the balance for the better by teaching our kids to be thankful. I hope these suggestions will help you do exactly that. Do you have other suggestions or ideas for accomplishing this goal? Please share them in the comment section below!
Other Ways to Cultivate Gratitude
Want more Thanksgiving-themed resources? Then check out our Ultimate List of Free Thanksgiving Printables. And if you’d like another great way to cultivate a thankful heart, pick up a copy of my new devotional journal, Count Your Blessings. It’s packed with promises, prayers, and writing prompts and will help hone that attitude of gratitude, not only in November, but all year long.
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