Teaching Your Children to be Thankful
Teaching our children to recognize Jesus as the source of every blessing is of utmost importance. As Christian parents, we are called to cultivate character traits in our children such as thankfulness, generosity and self-sacrifice. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, "Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." In our materialistic culture, teaching thankfulness and contentment to young children is a real challenge. They become conditioned quite early to believe they are entitled to everything they want. However, there are easy ways for you to demonstrate to your little ones the notion of thankfulness and why it is so important…whether it is November or March! Here are a few of my favorites:
*Teach gratitude by setting an example – This is an obvious point but it is easy to find ourselves grumbling about things that are hard or mundane. Instead, try to transform negatives into positives and show thanks. Make gratitude a part of your daily conversation. Talk to your children about all the things you appreciate.
*Find a goodwill project – Create simple ways for your children to actively participate in helping someone else. This can be making cookies for a sick friend or helping a sibling clean his room.
*Make a ‘get one, donate one’ rule – This idea helps teach your children about helping others and being grateful for what they have. For each new toy or article of clothing that your children are given, they must give one away. If possible, don’t just put the toys in a box and drop them off yourself; let your children actually go with you to the donation spot.
*Insist on thank-you notes – Even young children can participate by decorating simple cards with crayons, stickers or even scribbles.
*Say no – It is okay for your children to have nice things, of course; however, they develop a major sense of entitlement when they are given every single thing they want. Saying no a lot makes saying yes that much sweeter!
*Gratefulness should not just be fostered about good things - Don’t miss the opportunity to express gratefulness when things aren’t so rosy. Be grateful after an accident in which no one was hurt. Show gratitude for an unexpected change of plans due to the weather.
*Have fun with a ‘Gratitude Game’ – This is a good way to focus on small things. Play a game where your children share something for which they are grateful. You can play this game while in the car by naming things that you see or while sitting in a waiting room. By making it a game, your children learn about all the things they can be grateful for while not making it too serious.
*Be patient – A grateful heart does not develop overnight. While little ones can be trained to say “please” and “thank you” by about 18 months old, true appreciativeness and generosity requires many years of reinforcement.
Since children are naturally self-centered, it’s normal for them to think of themselves despite our efforts to help them be more appreciative. With the Lord’s assistance, though, we can help them see beyond themselves and help them approach life with an attitude of gratitude.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and He will direct your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6
Cindy Wright, Director of Nursery and Preschool Ministries