It doesn't take much experience as a parent to realize that children are not naturally programmed to be grateful. Because we live in a sinful, fallen world, our children inherit our same selfish tendencies (Romans 3:23). Developing an attitude of thankfulness to replace the "me" mentality in our children takes time, so here are eight tips you can use this Thanksgiving and throughout the entire homeschool year to teach your children the truth of 1 Thessalonians 5:18: "In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you."
1. Be Thankful Yourself
Set a good example by demonstrating thankfulness. Your children are learning to be grateful when you:
- Say "thank you" to God in prayer for the many blessings He has given you, even for simple things like food and clothes.
- Say "thank you" at home to your spouse and children when they do something thoughtful and kind. You can even show them unconditional gratitude by telling them how much they mean to you just for being who they are.
- Say "thank you" to family and friends by writing notes of appreciation for birthday gifts, Christmas gifts, and other acts of kindness.
- Say "thank you" in public as you conduct business with sales clerks, restaurant employees, and other service providers.
2. Let Your Child Go Without
Contrary to public opinion (and probably your child's opinion, too), your child will not suffer if he does not get everything he wants. In fact, overabundance can dull your child's sense of appreciation. If your child's room already looks like a toy store, try giving away some of his things to a needy family or placing half of them in storage to be brought out and enjoyed later.
3. Establish "Thank You" as a Habit
Pick regular times of the day for your child to express thankfulness, such as thanking God for your food before meals and thanking God for blessings at night during bedtime prayers. Also, teach your child the habit of saying "thank you" whenever someone is helpful or kind.
4. Volunteer in the Community
Every child can learn thankfulness by assisting others. Help an elderly neighbor mow his lawn or rake his leaves, bake a fresh batch of cookies for a shut-in member of your church, or serve food at a homeless shelter. The possibilities are endless! Best of all, serving others will help him better understand their needs and appreciate his own blessings.
5. Avoid Guilt Trips
Although younger children need reminders to say "thank you," older children should learn to be thankful without humiliating remarks, such as "You never appreciate anything I do!" or "Do you know how hard I work for you every day?" Using positive reinforcement when they do express their thankfulness, such as "I really like it when you say ‘thanks' to me," will go much further in establishing an attitude of gratefulness.
6. Write a Thank You List
Have your child count his many blessings by naming them one by one. Younger children can even decorate the list and place it on the refrigerator for everyone to see at Thanksgiving. Older children can be encouraged to express their thankfulness through a poem, prayer, or paragraph.
7. Give Something Up
In Matthew 25:35, Jesus tells us to care for the hungry, thirsty, and the stranger, and sometimes that involves giving up something we enjoy. Teach your child to go beyond sharing and give something to others that involves a sacrifice. He can use a portion of his allowance or earned money to sponsor a child overseas or prepare a Christmas box with new toys for a child from a less fortunate family. Make this Thanksgiving different and invite a college student, an elderly neighbor, or a single mom living on a fixed income to your table for a home-cooked meal.
8. Make Your Child Responsible
Without a doubt, children are more thankful for possessions they have earned, so give your child a list of chores he can do to earn cash for buying items he wants. The hard work will not only motivate him to appreciate his belongings, but it will also teach him how to handle his finances better.
How have you taught your child to find a blessing in every event of his life? We'd love to hear about it. Help us all raise more thankful children by sharing your comment below!