Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Having a life filled with gratitude and a heart of thankfulness takes practice and purpose. As with anything that we are attempting to teach our children (such as using good manners), the truth is – they learn most by watching us. If I don’t make the effort to make sure that I am saying “please” or “thank you”, no matter how often I tell my children to do so – it isn’t going to stick. Why? Because if it isn’t genuine and true in my life, they aren’t going to take it seriously.
I didn’t really think about this much until about 2 weeks ago when my 10 year old told me how kind and nice I am to other people, “even the fast food workers”. I thought this sort of cute at first (we were getting food from McDonald’s) and didn’t think about it much. I quickly explained to her that fast food workers probably don’t get thanked very often or told that their service is appreciated. The truth is, most people don’t hear this and most jobs are thankless jobs.
Living in a state of joy and thankfulness is intentional. It might be easier for those who see the glass as being “half-full” compared to those who tend to be more pessimistic, but I believe that anyone can learn the art of gratitude. We are told that THIS is a part of God’s will for us, therefor – I know it’s possible.
To help teach your children the art of gratitude, you can begin with evaluating your own thoughts and heart. When I am struggling with thankfulness and joy in my own life, I begin to list out or say out loud the things that I am thankful for and blessed with. For example –
- My kids (see an easy one)
- A roof over my head (some don’t have this – ESPECIALLY in most parts of the world)
- Food (again, most in the world don’t know where their next meal will come from)
- A soft bed with warm blankets (again, more than what most have)
Then keep going…you will see just how much you have to be thankful for! If you are ever in doubt, just look up how people live in 3rd world countries – trust me, you will be thankful for what you have (I know because I have done this – several times- to get things back into perspective).
Now, other than needing to live out thankfulness and gratitude in your own life – what are some ways you can help your children?
I have come up with a 7 days of Gratitude Challenge for me and my girls. Here is what we are going to do and you could do it too!
Day 1 – Count Your Blessings – Together. Make a game of this! Go around with your children to list off things that each of you are thankful for. Write them down and try not to repeat anything. It will knock your socks off at the things your children will say.
Day 2 – Wall of Gratitude – (or refrigerator door). Get some colorful paper or have your kids color and cut out leafs. On each leaf, write down something that you are particularly grateful for. Then put them on display!
Day 3 – Verbal Expression of Gratitude –Ask your child if their is someone who has recently done something kind to them or given them something (maybe a gift) that they would like to call to thank. Help your child call the person up and let them express in their own words how they appreciate that person and what they did.
Day 4 – Thank Someone in a Thankless Job –Write a note – to a teacher, the mailman, a clerk, anyone who could use some gratitude. You can make the note generic and ask your child to hand it to someone you come into contact with that day who does something to help you.
Day 5 – Make/Buy a Special Treat – Who doesn’t love treats! You and your child can pick up some muffins and take them to the administration office at their school, or maybe take some down to the local police or fire station. There are LOTS of people who do work that most of the time goes unnoticed.
Day 6 – Show a Family Member How Grateful You are For Them – Do you have a family member who goes above and beyond for you and the rest of the family? I sure do! Take them out to lunch or invite them to join you for dinner and have the kids help! Tell them how much they mean to you and why you are so thankful for them. Even though you may thank them often verbally, show them they are really special!
Day 7 –Reflection and Thanksgiving. The day that all of this has been leading up to! Before you begin your family festivities and meal preparations, stand with your children in front of your Wall of Gratitude and take some time to soak it in and pray – thank God for all the blessings he has given to you and your kids!