Long before my son became a young man asking for a razor, lessons in gratitude were simpler to teach. Paper plates, turkeys and banners listing answers to prayer were made and displayed in our kitchen window, but as we added years and inches, lessons in thankfulness stretched me. How do we help our older boys grow in gratitude?
Sons need more than turkeys and banners on the march toward manhood. They need to see thankfulness mined out of dark places where banners don’t fit. For their gratitude to mature, our boys need to see us model a heart of thanks during seasons of grief. Unlike crafts for little guys, we can’t plan, direct, or orchestrate lessons we teach when we navigate deep currents of personal sorrow.
Pain visits every mother’s life. It’s tempting to withdraw, hide the heartache, or insulate our children. That’s not what our sons need as students in our suffering. While we would never choose distress, our grief may be our greatest chance to teach our sons the ways of authentic gratitude. Mourning has a way of bringing genuine rejoicing to the surface or to reveal the absence of real appreciation.
- Grief uncovers what’s really in our heart.
- Grief reveals how we face our weakness.
- Grief exposes where we put our trust.
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
When you find yourself in a dark place, live in such a way to instruct your son in how to choose gratitude over despair. Give him a front row seat. Turn a season of grieving into a season of giving thanks.
Let your boy listen.
He needs to hear the sound of his mama choosing to rejoice in the darkness, choosing to pray though words fail. Older boys have the maturity to encounter a parent’s grief, so allow him to listen in to the groaning of your heart and your decision to find reasons to rejoice.
Let your boy watch.
As you pull him close, he will see peace he doesn’t yet understand wash over you while trouble still laps at your door. His years have taught him to read your face and know your heart, so let him look at your response to the hardship.
Let your boy care.
The little boy who once patted your hand when you were sad needs to learn to care for others as a man. While your growing-up son ministers to you like you so often ministered to him, the value of giving thanks in all circumstances will transfer to the way of life he will set for himself.
Your big boy may not comply with the latest Pinterest project moms of little boys dream up, but your growing-up boy still needs to practice the ways of a grateful heart. Your own struggles and trials may be used to help your son see how a thankful life looks when it’s not easy, when it’s a sacrifice, when it’s a decision, and when it would make a banner too heavy for a kitchen window. Your choice to rejoice in hardship is the banner your young man needs to see displayed in your home.
As our sons prepare to launch into manhood, dear mom, let’s walk alongside them in our trials and let them see our hearts overflow with authentic thanks. Make your season of grief into a season of gratitude.
Not a day goes by when Julie Sanders isn’t thankful that “where sin abounded, grace abounded much more” (Rom. 5:20). She loves to teach God’s word and minister to women, because she was blessed to have seasoned moms walk the motherhood journey with her. Mentoring and ministering internationally makes her heart soar, and her favorite travel partner is husband Jeff. The youngest of their two nearly grown kids, son Jacob has made Julie catch her breath, fill with joy, and drop to her knees time and time again. Most of all, the journey of being a mom makes her grateful.