A few weeks ago, I noticed my children were suddenly full of the wants. When we went shopping, they wanted me to buy things for them. When they were playing with their toys, they talked about toys they "really, really wanted." When we put them to bed at night, they went on and on about stuff they didn't own but longed for. Um, yeah. They needed to focus on being thankful.
* Pray. First and foremost, pray privately for God to show you how to teach your children that more isn't better, that they already have what they need, and that more stuff doesn't bring happiness - in fact, often it brings the opposite.
* Set the Example. If you are busy chasing after stuff, always coveting what others have, or wishing for more, so will your kids. Pay close attention to your actions, words, and attitudes, to ensure you aren't setting a bad example.
* Research. Show your children how less fortunate kids live. Explore this in as many ways as you can. For example, together look at these photos from Where Children Sleep, search for National Geographic photos of children around the world, and read books like God Provides Homes Around the World.
* Make Thankful Lists. You can do this in many ways. For example, every night at the dinner table, every member of the family might mention 1 - 3 things they are thankful for. Or, the children could make a paper chain and every day add a new thing they are thankful for. Older kids can keep a gratitude journal.
* Make 'Em Pay. Provide a way for your children to pay for things themselves. I'm not talking necessities here - only wants. Even very young children can do chores - things that are above and beyond the chores you'd normally expect of them - to earn a small amount of money. (I never pay over $1 to my children, ages 8 and 5. Usually their payment is 5 - 75 cents.) Or, if your child wants a particular thing, have him do something special for it for a length of time before you buy it for him. For example, my 5 year old just earned a toy he'd been pining for by picking up ALL the toys in the house every day (without me nagging him) for two weeks. Working for things, or paying for them, helps children understand that those things come with a price beyond dollars.
* The Ol' Switcheroo. Whenever your kids start talking self-centered desires, gently lead her to think about others instead. For example, if your child goes on and on about a thing she wants, ask her what others may be wanting or needing.
* Gratitude in Prayer. Teach your children to start every prayer by thanking God for as much as they can think of. Then teach them to pray for others before they pray for themselves. Model this type of prayer whenever you pray aloud with your kids.
* Have Them Give. Visit a charity website like Heifer International. Help your children understand the need, then encourage them to give to the charity. If they are doing extra chores for money, have them set aside not only a tithe for church, but also a portion for those in need. Help them find ways to serve others without using money, too. For example, could your child help in a soup kitchen? Or show kindness to an elderly neighbor?
How do you encourage gratitude in your children?