Nov 21, 2016

Teaching Kids to Be Thankful...All Year Round

It's good that we set aside one day a year to focus on being thankful. It's bad that we set aside one day a year to focus on being thankful.

Both statements are true. A yearly holiday that's at least supposed to make us think of all the things we're thankful for is a good thing. But cultivating a thankful heart every day is really what the family of a Proverbs 31 Woman aspires to. Indeed, an attitude of thanksgiving is readily recognized as a balm for much that plagues our society today.

But as parents, just how do we go about encouraging a thankful heart?

* Show gratitude yourself. Parents have a tremendous influence over their children. If your kids see you expressing gratitude on a regular basis, they are more apt to dwell on the things they are thankful for, too. Action Ideas: Say thank you more often than you need to; express grateful moments out loud ("Mrs. Smith is so kind to think of us this way!"); show how gratitude leads you to do for others ("Mrs. Smith gave us her son's old books, so I think it would be nice to make her a batch of cookies.")



* Show them the world. Americans, even those who are considered poor, mostly have it easy compared to people in much of the world. It's a big mistake to shelter your children from the difficulties so many other people experience - or to simply neglect to teach them about those who have less. Instead, make a point of regularly talking about, learning about, and seeing people who have less than you do. Action Ideas: Take a family trip to a third world country; look at photos from National Geographic (or an online search) showing how the less fortunate live; read articles about daily struggles in other countries or communities; volunteer at a homeless shelter; think out loud about other people's needs ("Did you notice that Judy seems lonely? I wonder what we could do to cheer her?").

* Do something about it. Praying for the needy is very good. But come up with other ways you and your children can help those in need. For example, my sister's family has made it a tradition to cook dinner for the homeless each Thanksgiving. Whatever you do, though, don't limit it to the holiday season. Each month, aim to have a project that helps others. Action Ideas: Have your kids focus on earning money so they can give to their favorite charity, like World Vision; encourage your child to mow your neighbor's lawn or help the neighbor with weeding; as a family, visit the elderly; at least once a week, have each child find one way to be kind to a sibling.

* Make thankfulness an important part of daily prayer. When you teach your children to pray, be sure to insert prayers of thanksgiving on a regular basis. Action Idea: There is always something to be thankful for! Make sure you acknowledge that before your Creator - and during family prayer times.


* Write thank you notes. Growing up, I was never encouraged to do this, and where we live, it seems to be a dying tradition. Let it not be that way at your house. Action Ideas: Children who can't yet write, can draw a thank you picture; kids who can scrawl a few words should; young children needn't write a thank you note for every single gift (that could be an overwhelming and negative experience), but perhaps they can write one big thank you note and send copies of it to every gift giver.

* Think of others first. Gratitude is the natural outpouring of the greatest commandments: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind'....and ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'" (Matt 22: 37-39) Therefore, teach your child what true love is: Putting others before yourself. Action Ideas: Talk about specific ways to love others in everyday life; when you see someone put others first, point it; think out loud about showing love ("I'm going to bring Mrs. Jones her mail today, just because.")

* Everyday traditions. Consider adding some traditions to your life that encourage every day thanksgiving. Action Ideas: Have one night a week where everyone at the dinner table talks about things they are thankful for; once a month make gratitude rolls; keep a family gratitude journal - a list of things you are thankful for.

* Memorize Scriptures about being thankful. Do it as a family! Some suggestions to get you started:

"Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."
1 Thesselonians 5:18

"And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him."
Colossians 3:17

"Praise the Lord! Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!"
Psalm 106:1


How do you teach your children thankfulness? Share your thoughts and tips in the comments!

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