American children have so much today that gratitude is often sorely lacking. Because many children live with more than everything they need, are able to eat out frequently, and have access to so much due to the Internet and technology, it is so important that parents train their children to be thankful.
A sweet, young mom asked me recently how she could instill gratitude in her child. I sat for a long while thinking and praying before writing back a response to her, and I’m sure I left some things out, but here was my answer to her:
- Reading a missionary biography written for children – one like George Mueller. and how God provided what they needed and how thankful he was for the least little thing will impact a child’s heart to see that they are truly blessed. I’m sure some of the Trailblazer books would also cover gratitude.
- Our children have so much today, and it’s easy for them to adopt the attitude that parents owe them something. I recently saw a child demanding their parents’ Ipad so they could color. Wow. At one point, we took all the “extras” away from one of our daughters. They had food, clothes, and books, but all electronics and “toys” were off limits for a good loooong while. They learn to appreciate what they no longer have.
Perhaps rewarding with either earning back one thing the child has had taken away, (a sticker on a reward chart, or a special stay-up-late for games with Mom and Dad) after a certain amount of thank yous have been verbalized, would push them towards gratitude. You want to be careful and not reward “things” for gratitude – it would counteract what you’re trying to accomplish.
- Making sure that our kids SAY thank you is an important tool, too. “Thanks for supper, Mom.” “Thanks for playing ball with me, Dad.” Writing thank you notes to people for things they have done is also important in teaching them that we should be thankful for what others do. A thank you to their Sunday school teacher or children’s church worker would be a blessing to the recipient. They should write a note of thanks and not just expect relatives to send a gift on their birthday or Christmas. Make sure they have a box of thank you cards for their own so they can write their notes. Give them a special pen to use to write with. If they’re too young to write, you have them dictate the note (write it just the way they send it – the recipient will love “their language,” then have them sign the note themselves.
- Being responsible for chores at home for their age level will also help a child to be grateful for all that seems to magically get taken care of in a day. Supper preparation – making the salad, making iced tea, preparing a simple dessert, are all things primary age child could handle. Sorting laundry, ironing linen napkins, and folding laundry helps them appreciate clean clothes! This shouldn’t be seen as a punishment – but a part of family life. We all live here, so we all help. (Money Saving Mom had some good suggestions for chores for 4 year-olds.)
- Of course, memorizing lots of Scripture about gratitude is crucial. What power the Word has! I’d make those the verses in school memorization, as well as Bible stories about those that were thankful.
- Also, if there was an opportunity for your family to help someone under-privileged, that would open up a window into their world and how blessed they are. Is there someone you could serve by taking them a meal, or doing an act of kindness? Everyone does a part of the serving – not just Mom and Dad.
- Demonstrate thankfulness in your own life as a parent. Your children should hear you saying thank you to your husband for working and providing for your family. They should see you writing thank you notes and hear you saying how grateful you are to the Lord for ….and …..
Dr. Bob Jones Sr. said, “When gratitude dies on the altar of a man’s heart, that man is while nigh hopeless.” Let’s not have hopelessly ungrateful children because we failed to teach them!
By the way, thanks for stopping by and reading today! =)