In a world that values instant gratification and adopts the mindset that having more is better, how can we teach our children to be grateful to God each day for their abundant blessings?
"Please" and "thank you" are two statements that are short and simple but incredibly significant. In a world that values instant gratification and adopts the mindset that having more is better, how can we teach our children to be grateful to God each day for their abundant blessings? Every day, my husband and I are teaching our four-year-old daughter the importance of saying “please" and "thank you” when she asks for something or when someone gives her something. While our daughter is incredibly loved and cared for, teaching her to be thankful for all her blessings will keep her humble and develop a stronger appreciation for where her blessings come from.
Teaching children gratitude at an early age will help remind them not to be so self-absorbed and develop a heart and desire to serve others who are less fortunate. For both children and adults, it is so easy to become entitled, thinking we deserve what we have, or we are owed it based on what we have done. However, God is the source of all we have and provides the resources for us.
The holidays are an exciting time to start or continue teaching children gratitude. If you are looking for ideas to start, here are four tools to help teach your children gratitude:
1. Have Family Thankful Talks
Daily, set aside 10-15 minutes to share why each family member is thankful. This can be in the morning, during dinner, or during nightly prayer time. Be creative with how you can have your thankful talks. Each person’s list can be written down, spoken, or you can sing songs of praise to God. It does not matter how or where you give thanks. It is important that you continually practice giving thanks. Developing a grateful heart and spirit is an ongoing and lifelong process. Establishing a consistent thankful talk time with family sets a wonderful example for your children of the value of spending quality time together, giving God thanks, and reminding them there is always something to be grateful for.
2. Serve Others in Need
With the holidays quickly approaching, this is a wonderful time for children to serve others in need. Donating their old toys or clothes to a needy family or organization is a terrific way to teach and show gratitude. Have children help choose what they want to give away so they can take ownership and represent Christ’s love and compassion in action. Collecting can goods or helping to serve at a local soup kitchen instructs children on both the value of service and gratitude. It also teaches children kindness and reminds them how blessed they are.
After serving someone else in need, you can encourage your child to share how serving others in need made them feel and why it is important. Serving others can start with the holidays but expand and be practiced all year long. When children serve others, it helps foster a continual concern for the needs of others and takes the focus off themselves and their wants.
3. Create a Gratitude Jar
Another way to teach children gratitude is to make a year-long gratitude jar in your home. Daily or weekly, children can write something they are grateful for and put it in the jar. At the end of the year, or periodically throughout the year, they can pull out a slip and read it. This is a fantastic way to remind children what they are grateful for and encourages them during difficult days or seasons. Having a gratitude jar can be an annual family practice as well. It is important for the entire family to develop a grateful heart and spirit toward God, and creating a gratitude jar is a fun and exciting way to do so.
It is so easy to always want more and never be content with what we have been given from God in our everyday lives. When children always ask for and expect more things, keeping a gratitude jar is an uncomplicated way for them to pause and remember what they already have. Being grateful is not restricted to only things but other areas, including family, protection, health, courage, boldness, hope, or wisdom on how to deal with friendships or conflict.
Having a grateful heart reinforces to children that everything they have comes from God. Being grateful also keeps their eyes focused on God and not on themselves or acquiring more things.
4. Take a Prayer Walk
Spending time outside and taking a prayer walk is another fresh way for children to give thanks. They can observe God’s beautiful creation and thank Him for the blue sky, sun, trees, and birds chirping. While the family is walking together, they can share what they are thankful for as a way of bonding and giving praise to God. Walking also allows children to see and observe more things that they would not get to see if they were riding in a car. Prayer walks keep the whole family active and engaged and are a creative way to give our thanks to God and each other.
Psalm 136:1 states, “Give thanks to the Lord for He is good. His love endures forever.” Teaching our children to give thanks is a lifelong lesson and a continual journey that should be cultivated, practiced, and strengthened. Incorporating family thankful talks, serving others in need, creating a gratitude jar, and taking prayer walks are creative and recommended ways to keep children grateful. As parents, God leads us to set the foundation for our children, and we pray that they will take the lessons of always having a grateful spirit with them as they grow and mature as adults and in life.
Today, I invite you to teach gratitude to your children by modeling gratitude in your own life with your words and actions. When challenges and difficult seasons arise, be encouraged that there is always something to give God praise for in our lives. Giving thanks keeps us humble and renews our perspective of what is most important—staying connected to God, serving those in need, and being reminded that God is our ultimate Source for who we are and all we have.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/jacoblund
Kirstyn Mayden is a Christian blogger who writes devotionals that empower and equip believers in their everyday lives. She is a wife, Mom, and loves Jesus. She has a Master of Divinity degree from Emory University in Atlanta, GA. For the last 20 years, Kirstyn has served in several ministry capacities. She has a passion to serve with women empowering them to grow and live out their God-given purpose. Currently, she serves alongside her husband in ministry in West Virginia. She is the author of Merciful Moments: A Devotional Journal for Moving Forward with Grace Each Day. Connect with Kirstyn’s blog here.