Eight Ways to Teach Your Child Thankfulness

8 Ways to Teach Your Child Thankfulness

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!

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ROBERT +DANA M 11/04/2010 05:28:20

I taught my child to be thankful in two tragic events and it helped me to also look at the bright side. First was when I need open heart surgery and I am a mom of 2 children, my husband and I taught the children to be thankful that this procedure can be done, that the doctor is qualified and I wouldn't need a transplant that mom will be better and live longer. The second was when my best friend, my brother died of cancer, I taught them to be thankful that he is in heaven and we have a place to go and wait for our loved ones to spend eternity with. My nine year old son grasped it very well and seems to be thankful in all circumstances even when he doesn't get his way.

Jody F 11/04/2010 09:01:18

I often think that the way I grew up was so much better than my children. Even though I didn't have the blessing of being home-schooled, I remember each toy that I received and for which event I received it. We are a one income family but my children have far more than I ever had as a child - and far more opportunities also (swim class, soccer, 4-H, piano lessons, etc). I often have to remind them that these are priveledges and not to take these things for granted as they're not available to everyone. I further remind them how hard their father has to work in order to provide these things for them. I also request, if we've done something special, that they thank their earthly father and their heavenly father for allowing them the priveledge. We always write thank-you notes after birthdays and Christmas to let people know how much we appreciate their thoughtfulness. Hopefully, they will pass these things on to their children someday. Jody F.

DEBORAH O 11/05/2010 05:14:41

We have started a card ministry. I was trying to come up with something that we could do on a regular basis that would teach the kids many things. Living in a rural setting also made it harder. God placed on my heart to start a card ministry, so we did. We send cards and little gifts to people just to brighten their day. My kids are learning to pray and ask who should be receiving a card, they make some of the cards by hand, spend their money on buying supplies, and they send them from the ministry (we named it) so that they do not receive any of the glory for doing it. This way they let God receive all the glory. It has been wonderful. The lesson that my kids have learned are countless. And we are having fun listening to the people we know who have received a card trying to figure out who the ministry is. De

PATRICIA T 11/05/2010 07:20:29

We have lived so much of our life especially since the kids came along in lack. There are 7 of us living in single-wide trailer with less than 1,000 sq ft. The kids have to share the bedrooms cause there's only 3. With me staying home to homeschool we live off of 1 income. We don't have the things most families have but we have each other. In the process of living the life we have we haven't so much tried on purpose to teach them thankfulness... we've just tried to live it. Finding a way to be content in whatever "state" you're in goes a long way towards creating that thankful spirit inside of you. We haven't had much but the children understand that God has never forsaken us.... we have a roof over our heads, heat when it's cold, clothes on our backs.... and friends that love us... etc.... There's only one time that we've done something "big" to get the kids thinking about Thankfulness. It was in a really hard time about 2 yrs ago. I got up that morning and attached a string in the doorway between our livingroom and kitchen and called all the kids to witness what I was putting up. I told them this was our "Chains of Thanks Giving"... everytime we walked thru that doorway we'd add write on another link and add it IF we thought of something to be thankful for. There was no condemnation or judgement if you couldn't think of anything.... we were to just pause and see if we thought of anything. 117 individual links were added over 5 wks time.

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