We’ve taught our kids to say please and thank you (and they respond most of the time). Teaching the abstract concept of gratitude is more complex, especially for little ones.
But how? Below are ten ideas to train our grumblers to be grateful:
- Teach your child to give others his full attention. You’ll need to instruct your child to turn away from the screen. When you have his full attention, continue to communicate. You’re teaching your child to value the other person.
- Serving can develop a grateful mentality. When a child serves another, they discover how fortunate they are, and the focus shifts from me-centered to other-centered.
- Giving teaches kids to hold things loosely. It demonstrates to God and others a heart of thankfulness and can erase or lessen an entitlement mentality.
- Make thankfulness a daily habit. At the dinner table, ask, “What is one thing you are thankful for today?” If we model thanksgiving to our kids, they will catch it and rehearse it on their own.
- Check out your library biographies about those who have suffered (Joni Eareckson Tada) but still serve God with a cheerful heart. Discuss why people in the Bible grumbled (see Exodus 16:2-3) and how others gave thanks (see Luke 17:11-17).
- Educate your child. Read articles about the plights of the world. They’ll discover not all kids have clean drinking water, and many have a limited education. If you find a child moved by such stories, encourage him to research more and partner with an existing ministry.
- Provide paper or note cards for kids to write thank-you notes. If you have a younger child, suggest he draw a picture or print his name. My niece always has her boys send drawings as thank-yous. Their artwork brings a smile.
- Role-play possible dialogues to prepare a child for mean words or actions taken. As you remind your child that each person is made in the image of God and has a story to tell, her heart will soften.
- Delay or deny gifts. Yes, this is a hard one. We want to give our kids presents; for some kids, it’s their love language. But delaying a gift could benefit a child. They are more likely to appreciate and take care of an item when it’s something they’ve had to wait or work for.
- Point your child back to our generous Giver of gifts. Pause to pray during the day and thank God for the rain or sunshine or your family.
In all our attempts to instill gratitude, we’ll need patience. Remember, we are discipling them, and discipleship is a life-long journey.
Sally Cressman and her husband enjoy an easy rhythm in their empty nest. She’d love to connect with you on Instagram @sacressman, Facebook—Sally Cressman Writer, or her blog at www.sallycressman.com.