As adults, we learn to focus on the things we’re thankful for around this time of year. This isn’t the only time we should be thankful. A thankful heart is something that doesn’t come naturally, but is learned. I have to work daily to maintain a thankful heart.
Instilling a thankful heart in your children is an important and daunting task. When babies are born, they’re demanding and selfish. As they grow, being helpful, loving, and thankful is taught, not natural. Here are 10 ways to help teach your child to have a thankful heart.
Instilling a Thankful Heart in your Child
1. Identify the feeling. Since children aren’t born thankful, it’s a feeling they may have trouble identifying. Talk them through this whenever you see the opportunity. If your child receives a gift they really like, say “I see you’re enjoying that new toy. Aren’t you thankful Aunt Suzie gave it to you?” If your child is having fun playing at the park, say, “Isn’t being at the park fun? Aren’t you thankful we got to come?” Help your child identify what a thankful heart feels like.
2. Be an example. When my husband thanks me for dinner, my children usually jump right in and say thank you as well. Likewise, if you as the mother show thankfulness toward others (the grocery store clerk, your children when they’re helpful, strangers who hold the door, and most importantly, the Lord), your children will reflect that. Make sure to express your thankful heart when your children are listening (as well as when they’re not!) so they have an example to learn from.
3. Give your children jobs. This may seem like an oxymoron. Usually, you’d do something for your child and expect them to be thankful. Instead, try having your child do something for you (or the whole family). They’ll begin to appreciate what you do for them if they not only see the work you do for them, but also feel your appreciation for them.
4. Say no. If you say yes to every request your child brings to you, they’ll never learn to be thankful for the things you say yes to!
5. Help the less fortunate. No matter how tough your life is, there’s always someone who is worse off than you. You don’t have to take your children to the slums to find these people. In the town where I live, I drive by at least one homeless person each day. Have your children help you make a care package with cookies, a sandwich, an apple, and a water bottle and deliver it to a homeless person on the road. Another idea would be to make cards and deliver them to a nursing home. These opportunities will help your children see how blessed they truly are.
6. Write thank-you notes. When your child (or your whole family) receives a gift, write a thank-you note. I confess, I am so, so, so bad about this. I write them, but I don’t send them. So do as I say, not as I do. Have your child write thank-you notes, address them, stamp them, and put them in the mail.
7. Combat ungratefulness with gratefulness. In our house, whenever my children say something that they’re not happy about (things like not being able to play an extra hour or having to take a nap, not truly sad things like missing a friend or wishing Daddy would be home), I have them say five things that make them happy or that they’re thankful for. I often have to help them come up with the first couple things, but by the end of their list, they’re coming up with their own ideas and are in a much better mood!
8. Memorize scriptures about being thankful. When you memorize a scripture or song, God will bring it to your heart when you need it most. I’ve experienced this many, many times. Here are a few good verses to memorize if you’re having trouble coming up with one.
- 1 Thessalonians 5:18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.
- Psalm 107: 1 O give thanks unto the Lord, for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.
- James 1: 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.
- Philippians 4:6 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.
- Psalm 106:1 Praise ye the Lord. O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.
- Colossians 3:15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.
- Psalm 100:4 Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.
9. Pray together. When you pray with your children, make sure YOU are thanking God for your blessings. Then, before your children pray, help them come up with a few things to thank God for. It’s okay if they list several of the same things each time they pray, but have them try to come up with new things as well.
10. Watch a movie. What??? Yes! The movie I recommend is Madam Blueberry. I love this Veggie Tales movie and it’s an easy way to teach children the blessing of a thankful heart along with what can happen if your heart becomes greedy. It’s one of my favorites!
I’d love to hear ways you’ve helped your child develop a thankful heart! Please share them in the comments!