Being thankful is a reflection of gratitude and appreciation. As parents, we want our kids to be grateful for the blessings they enjoy.
Let’s talk about 4 ways you can help increase gratitude and thankfulness in your child.
This is Thanksgiving week, a time where we place great emphasis on being thankful. The day after Thanksgiving begins the Christmas season. The ideals of gratitude and thankfulness can be quickly replaced by a focus on the crass materialism of the Christmas season.
What Can We Do To Ensure the Values of Thanksgiving Have a Lasting Effect On Us and Our Children?
First, believe in the positive values associated with Thanksgiving. Here are just four of many.
4 Positive Benefits of Thankfulness and Gratitude
There are God-given and scientifically proven benefits to gratitude.
i. Gratitude Instills Perspective
Our kids are given so much ‘stuff’ in the form of material goods that it is easy for them to not know or care where it comes from. This can result in a lack of perspective about sacrifice and giving as expressions of love and care. Even worse, a lack of gratitude can also lead to a sense of entitlement.
Our children benefit most when they understand that what they have comes from intentional acts of others. This understanding leads to the development of a perspective on life where the sacrifice and kindness of others is valued and appreciated.
ii. Gratitude Makes Us Less Selfish
Gratitude acknowledges that sources outside of our self make possible the good in our lives. This can increase a child’s appreciation for what they already have in their lives verses always focusing on the acquisition of the next new possession.
iii. Gratitude Makes Us Physically Healthier
Scientific research on gratitude has found that practicing gratitude can:
* Lower blood pressure, improve immune function and facilitate more efficient sleep.
* Reduce lifetime risk for depression, anxiety and substance abuse disorders
* Lower the risk of suicide
* Motivate people to exercise more, eat healthier, and be less likely to smoke and abuse alcohol
* Children who practice grateful thinking have more positive attitudes towards school & family.
iv. Gratitude Improves Relationships
This is common sense. When a person has a grateful outlook on life this will include the people in their life. This gratitude leads them to be more appreciative of family and friends. Appreciation of others results in treating and responding to others in positive and loving ways.
We all enjoy being in relationships with these kind of people. Who doesn’t like to be valued and appreciated by others?
O.K.! You’ve Convinced Me!
Now, How Do I Help My Children Develop an Attitude of Gratitude?
I. Start With Yourself
Gratitude begins at home – with you, the parent. The greatest source of influence in a child’s life is their parents. Your words mean nothing if your life betrays your message. Be a grateful person and share your gratitude with your kids.
If you need help learning to be more grateful here is a book I highly recommend:
Gratitude Works!: A 21-Day Program for Creating Emotional Prosperity
[see: ‘References’ below]
II. Teach Your Kids To Count Their Blessings
As the old church song says, “Count your blessings, name them one by one.”
At the dinner table each night go around the table and have everyone name 1 thing they are thankful for. With small children it may be a favorite toy, or even a cartoon on T.V. This is o.k. because they are learning to associate something they value in their life with being thankful and grateful. As they get older their focus will move to more mature and important life realities like relationships and opportunities.
Parents, you go first. This allows you to set the proper example for your kids of what it means to be thankful. By listening to your choices each night your children will learn what is really valuable in life.
III. Teach Your Kids To Say ‘thank you’
Again, as a parent, you have the privilege of setting the example for your child. Say ‘thank you’ whenever you get the opportunity to do so – both to your child and to others. Your child will learn from your example.
Always keep a stack of thank you notes at home. Help your child write thank you notes to various people who are kind and helpful to them. This list will include teachers, friends, relatives, coaches, nurses, etc. The list is endless.
Make it possible for your child to hand-deliver these notes or have them address the notes in an envelope for them to put in your mailbox. Tell your child how proud you are of them for showing their gratitude.
NOTICE: Teaching children to say “thank you” is not the same as instilling a sense of gratitude. Saying “thank you” is a required habit – but one can utter the words without understanding the reason WHY behind the words.
One way you can deal with this is to ask your child, “What did that person do that made you say ‘thank you’? What was it they did that caused you to be thankful?”
IV. Encourage Your Children to Give Back
Doing actual good for another person is a powerful way to instill gratitude in your child.
Seeing the sincere look of gratitude on the face of an elderly or needy person in response to a good deed will help your child learn the value of gratitude more than anything else.
Some good deeds that come to mind include raking leaves for someone, baking and delivering cookies, stopping by the nursing home to visit with residents, or volunteering with your children at a soup kitchen.
The Bible reminds us: “You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.'” (Acts 20:35)
The expressions of gratitude and thankfulness are not an option for followers of God and Christ. We are constantly reminded by the scriptures to express thanksgiving to God.
* Ephesians 5:20
“Always give thanks to God the Father for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
* Philippians 4:6
“…always giving thanks for what you have.”
* Colossians 3:17
“And in all you do, give thanks to God the Father through Jesus.”
The Bottom Line
Grateful and thankful children will grow up to be grateful and thankful adults.
Grateful and thankful adults will continue to produce grateful and thankful children.
This beautiful cycle will be a continual blessing to our planet for as long as it endures.
For the Family
Dr. Bill Walker