Teaching Gratefulness

Any homeschool parent can tell you that children don't come into the world programmed to be grateful. Because we live in a sinful, fallen world, our children inherit the same selfish nature that we have. (Romans 3:23) Developing an attitude of thankfulness to replace the "me" mentality in our children takes time. So what can you do this Thanksgiving and throughout the entire 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?"

Be Thankful Yourself
Set a good example for your children by demonstrating thankfulness. Your children are watching your actions and learning to be grateful when you:
  • Say thank you to God in prayer each day 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 being just 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.
Let Your Child Go Without
Contrary to public opinion and your child's opinion, your child will not suffer if he does not get everything he wants. Overabundance can dull your child's appreciation. If your child's room already looks like a toy store, try giving away some of the toys to a needy family or placing half of them in storage to be brought out and enjoyed later.

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 - including siblings.

Volunteer in the Community
Every child can learn thankfulness by thinking about others. The selfishness in his attitude will go away as he helps an elderly neighbor mow his lawn or rake his leaves, bake a fresh batch of cookies for a shut-in in your church, or serve food at a homeless shelter - the possibilities are endless. Understanding the needs of others helps your child better appreciate his own blessings.

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 everyday!" 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.

Write a Thank You List
Have your child count his many blessings by naming them one by one. Younger children can decorate the list and place it on the refrigerator for everyone to see this Thanksgiving. Older children can be encouraged to express their thankfulness through a well-written poem, prayer, or paragraph.

Give Something Up
Teach your child to go beyond sharing and give something to others that involves a sacrifice on his part. He can use part of his allowance or earn money to help sponsor a child overseas or prepare a Christmas box with new toys for a child from a family that is less fortunate. Jesus tells us to care for the hungry, thirsty, and the stranger in Matthew 25:35, and sometimes that involves giving up something we would like. Make this Thanksgiving different and ask your child if he knows of someone that your family can invite to your table for a home-cooked meal - a lonely college student, an elderly neighbor, or a single mom living on a fixed income.

Make Your Child Responsible
Children are more thankful for possessions they have earned. Give your child a list of chores he can do to earn cash for buying items he wants. The hard work will motivate him to be appreciative for his belongings.

Helping your child grow into a thankful adult isn't as hard as it seems. Your success will depend upon your daily commitment to reinforce this important character quality in your child's life. Alpha Omega Publications® offers an excellent Character Builders' video series that will help you in promoting an attitude of gratefulness in your child. Don't let your child become part of the entitlement generation - persevere in teaching him that he can find a blessing in every event of his life, and when he does, you'll know that you've succeeded in raising a grateful child!

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