As we approach Thanksgiving, I’ve found myself thinking more and more about all I have to be grateful for in my life. As a mom, I’ve also been pondering how to cultivate more grateful hearts in my children. While this is something we should all do year-round, Thanksgiving seems to be the ideal opportunity for us to help teach our children to be grateful daily by expressing their gratitude to God and to those around them. I began to research the topic a bit and came across many helpful tips. Here are a few I found most helpful…
Our children learn by example. Demonstrating gratitude as much as possible is a wonderful way to teach them to have grateful hearts. Praying with our children at the start and end of each day and beginning by giving thanks to God for all He has provided reminds our children that God is the giver of all good things. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above” (James 1:17, NKJV).
C.S. Lewis once said that humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less. Serving others is a great way to express thankfulness for the many blessings in our own lives. Many families make it a tradition to volunteer at the holidays. So, making family volunteering a year-round tradition is even better! I found this passage on serving others from one of the articles I read online particularly insightful:
True humility is more about thinking of yourself less, taking the focus off yourself—what you do or don’t have—and putting it on the needs of other people. The best way to nurture a spirit of humility and other-centeredness is to encourage a heart of giving in your child…. When your child is focused on meeting the real needs of others through giving, it becomes harder and harder for him to focus on his wants. As giving becomes a natural part of your child’s character, you’ll see his whole perspective change. …it’s hard for discontentment to take root in a heart filled with humility. In the same way, it’s almost impossible for selfishness to flourish in the heart of a giver. With every act of giving, your child is taking a stand against discontentment (Ramsey & Cruze, 2014)
Helping Our Children Express Their Gratitude
Training our children to honor those who are serving them—their teachers, coaches, youth leaders, doctors, etc. is a great way to foster gratitude in their hearts. Helping them to write thank you notes or doing something special like baking cookies for those people can be a special way of saying, “Thanks for all you do for me.”
Starting a Family Gratitude Jar or Gratitude Journal
This can be a fun project for the whole family that encourages thankfulness. You can make one jar or journal for the whole family or make individual ones for each family member. To make the gratitude jar, simply:
- Choose a container — a jar, can, box — that has an opening at the top.
- Decorate the container. It can be themed for the holidays or have bible verses about gratitude written on it. Just be creative!
- Cut strips of paper for the expressions of gratitude. Place the container, paper strips and a pen in a common area of your house.
- Read and share every day. Have each member of your family write down at least one thing they’re grateful for and put it in the container each day. At dinner or another designated time, take turns reading aloud a paper from the container. The family member who wrote the gratitude statement can share more about what they wrote.
Cultivating grateful hearts in our children can be difficult in today’s world, but I believe it’s something that we as Christians are called to do. Praying for our children and consistently modeling gratitude in our own lives can only serve to foster their relationship with Jesus. I can’t think of anything more important than that!
“Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind, for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things” (Psalm 107:8-9, NIV).
Faith Gateway. (2014) Raising kids to have humility and gratitude. Retrieved from: http://www.faithgateway.com/raising-kids-humility-gratitude/#.WDG4DKIrJQM
Family Life. (2016) 10 Ways to Build Gratitude Into Our Children’s Hearts. Retrieved from:http://www.familylife.com/articles/topics/holidays/featured/thanksgiving/10-ways-to-build-gratitude-into-our-childrens-hearts
Raising Arizona Kids. (2016) 5 ways to teach children gratitude-beyond Thanksgiving. Retrieved from: https://www.raisingarizonakids.com/2016/11/teaching-gratitude-beyond-thanksgiving/