How to Cultivate Thankfulness in Your Child's Heart
Pumpkins, scarecrows, leaves changing color, fall festivals, and crisp air mean only one thing… Fall is here! Fall is my favorite season for many reasons, but one thing that is special to me about fall is Thanksgiving. It is a holiday that requires me to take a step back and reflect on the things for which I am thankful. It’s such a special time of reflection, and it brings great joy and gratitude to my heart. In my time of reflection, I begin to wonder…
How can I have “thanksgiving” all year round instead of just once a year?
How can I cultivate a spirit of thankfulness in my heart that overflows to my children, my spouse, and everyone around me at ALL times?
Aren’t I commanded by God in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 to rejoice always, to pray without ceasing, and to give thanks in all circumstances because those things are His will for me?
I am challenged by these verses and the lack of thankfulness I show throughout the whole year. Maybe some of you have felt the same way, and struggle with practical ways to cultivate a year-round spirit of thankfulness in yourself or in your family. I think the above mentioned verses from 1 Thessalonians are a great guide for us as we strive to find ways to grow in thankfulness.
Exchange complaining with rejoicing
Help your children redirect their thoughts from complaining about what they don’t have or what they can’t do, to thoughts of gratitude. Show them an example of this in your life. Be intentional to point out things during the day that you and your children can rejoice over. Make it a habit. Set a timer if you need to and say, “What’s something in the last hour that we can rejoice over?” This can lead to a heart change, which will lead to a vision change–you and your children will begin to look at situations differently. As you help them, God will use your teaching them to transform your heart as well.
A prayerful heart is a thankful heart
A good example of this is when your children are having a tough time with a peer and you advise them to start praying for that person. There is something that happens when they begin to talk to God about their troubles. He begins to transform the anger or hurt that they are experiencing into rejoicing and thanksgiving. Help your children see that prayer is the key to a thankful heart.
Reminding them will also remind you.
A thankful heart speaks
Matthew 12:34 reminds us that what consumes our heart will come out of our mouth. If our heart is filled with thankfulness, it will manifest in our words. This is also true for the negative things we fill our heart with.
My neighbor is a pro at cultivating a spirit of thankfulness in her children. She is continually filling their minds and hearts with truth to counteract the fleshly sins and desires they face. Some methods she has shared with me are: role-playing a certain scenario to get to the heart of the issue and see an attitude change; her children have daily chores around the house, but every once in awhile she does one of their chores for them, in hopes to instill thankfulness in their hearts; and she encourages them to say “thank you” for everything. For example, when they ask to be excused from a meal they must thank the cook before leaving the table. Her goal here is to plant a seed of thankfulness in their hearts, instead of allowing them to take for granted that they were fed. She is very thoughtful and intentional in how she cultivates her children’s hearts.
Think-ful-ness equals thank-ful-ness
As I mentioned earlier, Thanksgiving requires us to THINK about what we are thankful for. If we require ourselves to think about God’s goodness and provision on a daily basis it will begin to draw forth gratitude in our hearts. Start a thanksgiving or gratitude journal where you and your children write something you are thankful for each day, or just verbally ask them what they are thankful for as you tuck them in bed. I promise they will ask you what you are thankful for, too.
Thankful to serve
As we cultivate a thankful spirit in our children, we can begin to help them take that thankfulness a step further by teaching them to share their thankfulness with others. For example, I ask my children every time I pick them up from a class they have attended to tell their teacher “thank you.” We also try as a family to seek out the needs of others–whether those in our neighborhood, family, friends, or strangers on the street. By meeting their needs we are able to share with that person how thankful we are that Jesus died for us and that He gives us hope and eternal life in Him. My husband and I strive to cultivate a spirit of thanksgiving so that we may train our children to be soul-winners to the world.
As we enter the month of Thanksgiving let our hearts be eager to reflect on what we are thankful for, but let us be even more eager to cultivate a spirit of thankfulness in our hearts and our families hearts year round.