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Want to Raise a Grateful Child? Do These 5 Things Regularly

Noelle Kirchner

Contributing Writer
Published Mar 03, 2020
Want to Raise a Grateful Child? Do These 5 Things Regularly

According to Harvard Health Publishing of the Harvard Medical School, “Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.” The benefits to giving thanks are proven and sweeping. Researchers have found that people who give thanks feel better, are more optimistic, exercise more, and have fewer trips to the doctor. One study found that a special thank you letter increased the happiness of the writer for an entire month.

In an age when the anxiety level, depression rate, and demands upon our youth are concerning, nurturing gratitude can produce timely—and healing—results. Children are grateful when they are aware of their blessings. Helping to ground them, informing their lens of the world, and encouraging their recognition of God and others are essential to building that awareness. Accordingly, here are five lessons that you can use to grow a grateful heart in your child:

1. Encourage Children to Help around the House

1. Encourage Children to Help around the House

The sighs are audible in our house when I ask my children to help fold the laundry, even though they produce the most of it! Regardless, my husband and I encourage household chores as a function of living in our home—everyone contributes and everyone makes a difference. Doing chores gives children a sense of accomplishment, prepares them for the future, and helps them appreciate the work that goes into family life. That appreciation, in turn, promotes gratitude.

Do you feel like you are running yourself ragged in exhaustion while your children are increasing their requests? Asking children to help in age-appropriate ways will free you up for more while keeping them busy. Braun Research found that 82 percent of adults did chores as children while only 28 percent of children do them today. Giving children a free pass squanders a precious learning opportunity. By teaching them responsibility, we cultivate gratitude in the home, their primary place of teaching.

2. Do Community Service as a Family

Service outside of the home is another important lesson that can help children grow a grateful heart. With household chores, their service is within the home; with community outreach, their service is outside of it. Opening their eyes to those in need and enriching their perspective of the world can allow them to appreciate all that they have and meaningfully contribute to the lives of others.

Ideas for outreach are vastparents can choose what works best for their family. I have one friend whose son shovels snow for the elderly. Another friend volunteers at a local soup kitchen with her children, an activity that also provides quality family time. Outreach can be as simple as children penning a special thank you card, or as inspiring as organizing a drive for a cause that moves them. James 2:17 says faith without works is dead; serving others is one important way that children can live their faith and experience its joyful reward.

3. Create a Habit of Giving Thanks

3. Create a Habit of Giving Thanks

Giving thanks to God isn’t an afterthought in the Christian life—it’s one of our most important responsibilities. The Bible promotes a habit of thanksgiving. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 reads, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Giving thanks in “all circumstances” means two things. First, our thanksgiving should be continual, just like our worship. Second, our thanksgiving shouldn’t be conditioned by our circumstances, for whether they are overwhelmingly bad or good, there is always something to be thankful for.

Routinely taking inventory of what we’re thankful for and vocalizing it grows our gratitude like a muscle. This muscle can help all of us—including our children—power through the ups and downs of life by creating a lifeline of stability in the spiritual sense. Our Creator knew we’d need it and we’d be happier for it, and the research backs this up.

I often ask my children to say five things that they’re thankful for on our way to school. A bonus of this practice is that it resets any rough mornings too! The pattern of giving thanks can be integrated into the day at any time, like at mealtime or bedtime as well. Regularity allows children to anticipate it and become mindful of their lists on their own.

4. Model a Thankful Heart

What we model is our children’s best teacher. When we acknowledge a gift from God’s hand in our life and give thanks for it in front of our children, it encourages them to do the same. Colossians 3:17 reads, “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Everything we do—our words and deeds—should spring from a thankful heart as we seek to model Christ.

Fostering a continuously thankful heart is a discipline. Paul gives us a snapshot into the necessary mindset to succeed at it by saying, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Philippians 4:8). Paul knew that life can be difficult; he had suffered through hardships like being blinded, falsely accused, arrested, beaten, and shipwrecked. His exhortation is a strategic profession of how believers can remain strong, effective, and grateful as ministers for Christ.

5. Teach Children about the Many Attributes of God

5. Teach Children about the Many Attributes of God

Exploring the many praise-worthy attributes of God with children is the capstone of our effort. This important work can fuel all the other lessons. Learning about God’s unconditional love and activity will allow children to draw closer in relationship to the One whose blessing can best inspire their gratitude.

Bestselling author Sara Hagerty calls “adoration” a time of meditating upon God’s attributes. To practice it, she suggests starting with a single verse or thought from a psalm. Focus upon what it says about God and how you have seen God demonstrate that characteristic in your life. Use that characteristic as a jumping off point to pray, praise, and listen to God. Sara writes, “Minutes of speaking back to God the beauty of God win back hours of the unsettled mess of my heart. Adoration is breathing deeply of who He is and exhaling purity. It’s training my mind and my heart to look up.” Both individually and together, Sara’s family regularly spends time adoring God—this time has since become the heartbeat of her ministry.

Philippians 4:6-7 reads, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends your understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” This passage acknowledges that we’ll always have petitions, but don’t miss its encouragement to be thankful. Gratitude is part of the gateway to God’s blessing. You can be a conduit of that blessing for your family with these lessons. Your children will live happier and healthier, while magnifying God’s presence in their lives!

Rev. Noelle Kirchner, MDiv., believes we don’t have to live with full schedules and thin souls. A busy mom of three boys, she is passionate about making faith fresh and relevant. Noelle is a graduate of Princeton Seminary and an ordained Presbyterian minister who has served in churches for over ten years. She has written for places like the TODAY Show Parenting Team, Huff Post Parents, The Laundry Moms, and (in)courage. Her faith and family cable television show, Chaos to Calm, features parenting hot topics and has hosted two New York Times bestselling authors. Watch her episodes or sermons, connect with her on social media, and follow her blog by visiting her website, or receive her free devotional e-book.

headshot of author Noelle KirchnerRev. Noelle Kirchner, M.Div., believes we don't have to live with full schedules and thin souls. A busy mom of three boys, she is a graduate of Northwestern University and Princeton Seminary and an ordained Presbyterian minister who has served in churches for over ten years. She has written for places like the TODAY Show Parenting Team, Huff Post Parents, Crosswalk, iBelieve, and (in)courage. Her faith and family cable television show, "Chaos to Calm," features parenting hot topics and has hosted four New York Times bestselling authors and two Emmy Award-winning journalists. Watch her episodes or sermons and sign up for her free devotional e-book by visiting her website, noellekirchner.com. You can connect with her on social media (Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook) and also check out her book, How to Live Your Life Purpose: The Six-Step Journey to God's Best, that launched as a #1 New Release on Amazon and includes end-of-chapter Bible studies.

Originally published Tuesday, 03 March 2020.