With Thanksgiving right around the corner, I long for my children to think beyond their “me” centered worlds and express true gratitude.
A thankful heart is not something we are born with.
Think about it for a moment. Have you ever heard of a baby who coos calmly and gratefully as they wait for their parents to pick up a fallen toy? Or what about a toddler who waits patiently for the server to bring them their food at dinner? In our “everyone gets a trophy” society how do we teach our children to be thankful, even when (especially when) they don’t get their way? It is not an overnight process and will likely include a few let downs. Those disappointments may be the very thing to deepen their gratitude. Here are some things you can do to help model a heart of gratitude in your kids:
Walk the walk.
How do you respond when things don’t turn out as you planned? If we are not modeling a grateful heart, no matter the circumstance, we cannot expect our children to. Model thankful actions and attitudes even when your circumstances aren’t ideal. Keep a personal list of all you have to be thankful for. Look for opportunities to discuss these with your child and encourage them to give thanks for the little things.
Don’t unintentionally breed entitlement by overindulging.
I recently read a book by Kristen Welch titled Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World. Welch describes how saying no to their children had led to a more fulfilling life. By not giving into our child’s every desire we breed gratitude for what they do have. I know what you are thinking! My child is not showing gratitude when I turn down their request for pizza. Please, just remember this is a process.
Provide opportunities to serve others.
The act of serving someone else takes the spotlight off yourself and breeds thankfulness. You could bring food to a friend with a new baby or serve in a homeless shelter. The point is to get out of your own bubble and give to others. Serving as a family deepens your gratefulness for what you have been given. Don’t forget to talk to your child about why you are serving, and be sure to maintain a thankful attitude.
Respond with grace when your child is…less than thankful.
We’ve all been there: you have been hiding that big ticket item your kiddo has been pining after for weeks. You know you are going to score big. But, on the day of the big reveal, your little angel throws a fit that their dream toy is not the right color. When a thankful heart seems like a fairy tale, a grace-filled response is most likely not your natural reaction. This is a moment you get to model a thankful heart in a less than ideal situation. Remember to be patient as they learn.
Chances are your child will not verbalize their thankfulness eloquently for quite a few years. Keep modeling even when it feels pointless and you’ll be surprised how it changes both your children and you!