Are your children thankful? Of course, they aren’t always thankful, but as a general rule are they? We live in a culture today where many think they are entitled. Many feel that they deserve special treatment or privilege and are ready to fight you if they don’t get what they think they are owed. They rarely if ever say “thank you” and rarely if ever acknowledge when someone has sacrificed for them. It was once said, “when people feel owed everything, they aren’t thankful for anything.” Forming thankfulness in the hearts of our children is a very important issue for us to tussle with and can even impact their understanding of the gospel. Here are a few thoughts on teaching thankfulness in the home…
The bible is full of scriptures that tell us to be thankful. One of the most powerful verses is in I Thessalonians chapter 5:18. It says, “in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” The Macedonian church of Thessalonica was one of the poorest churches in the ancient world. Paul is telling them that God’s will for them is to be thankful in “everything.” Think about how difficult it is to be thankful in everything. Especially if you were in poverty! This verse means that we are to be thankful when things go our way and when they don’t go our way. When we win and when we lose. When we prosper and when we suffer. When things are easy and when things are hard. There is never a time when we aren’t to give thanks. Practicing giving thanks during difficult seasons and situations demonstrates that we trust that God has our best interest in mind even when we don’t understand.
It has been said that “more is caught than taught.” Your children are likely to model what you consistently show them over time. What you do, not what you say demonstrates your true values over an extended period. I know it is anecdotal but I remember hearing dad’s tell their sons to never start smoking cigarettes as they puffed away on a Marlboro. Most of the time those sons ended up smoking just like their hero, dad. You can’t expect your children to be thankful people if all that you do is point out the negative in life. If you think that life is a conspiracy dead set on “hosing” you, don’t be surprised if your children feel the same way when they grow up. Be a thankful person and remember that “if God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:31)
When someone opens a door for your child and they walk through without saying “thank you” do you correct them? Do you explain to them later that the only appropriate thing to do in that situation is to look the person in the eyes and with a smile, thank them? Do they thank the person who sets food before them whether at home or in a restaurant? These are simple but important situations that arise consistently where the practice can be started from childhood. Teach it and then EXPECT IT! Help them to see that a thankful attitude is to be practiced all of the time with those around us.
Say it out loud
Take some time this Thanksgiving to have your kids make lists of things that they are thankful for. Don’t have them quickly throw it together, but actually set aside time for them to be thoughtful about what things they are truly thankful for. Then, on Thanksgiving Day, each one of you read out loud your list in the presence of everyone. Finish with a prayer of thanksgiving to God and recognize that “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.” (James 1:17)