As we are entering the holiday season, do you wonder if there are ways in which you can teach your children to be grateful? I remember feeling stressed about this very thing when my kids were young. I didn’t want them to just learn to say “thank you”. I wanted them to have genuinely grateful hearts. I would tell them what to say and remind them to show gratefulness whenever someone would give them a gift or serve them in some way, but I often wondered if they were “getting it”! God began to gently remind me that we are all in a life-long process of growth and maturity, and that many of concepts that I so desired that my children learn were still becoming a reality in my own heart.
What can we do to help our children learn how to be grateful? How can we teach them to not have expectations, not be greedy, and not always want more?
In Deuteronomy 6, Israel was told to teach their children diligently “when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise …” The most effective teaching happens as we “sit, walk, lie down, and rise up!” Yes, we teach our children by instructing them, but I believe that much of the “sitting, walking, lying down, and rising up” instruction is done when we are living examples of what we want them to learn.
Here are some questions we can ask ourselves to see if we are effectively teaching by example:
- Am I a grateful adult? Am I grateful for the house, yard, and car that we have?
- How do I show gratefulness? Do I write thank you notes? Do I serve and give of myself without expecting it to be reciprocated?
- Do I complain? Am I critical of others? Do I complain about our church, the people in it, or about our pastor?
- Do I have expectations? Do I have unrealistic expectations of my husband, my women friends, my parents, even my children? Do I always feel disappointed about something?
- Am I striving to live out Philippians 4: 11? “Not that I speak from want; for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.”
You see, I do not believe our children will learn what we do not posses ourselves. They watch us. They hear us! Many times they become us!
We need to continue to remind ourselves that our children are growing. They will not be perfect. They were born with sinful, self-centered hearts just like we were. We need to address their sin, discipline them, and train them, but we need to remember that God will take His time in maturing and growing them. (Just like He has with us!) Some of these concepts may take years to take root and grow to maturity. And that’s okay.
This is the Christian life. It is a process. We can’t expect unregenerate children to have the fruit of the Spirit! So be careful of what you expect from young children.
I am also reminded that I must always let my children know that I love and accept them no matter what. Their growth or lack of growth does not determine my approval or love. I love them – Period! When there is evidence of growth, I want to encourage them and let them know that it is seen. But I never want to lead them to think that their growth is what gains my approval!
Finally, it can be easy to judge other parents if we see that their children are not grateful. It is so important that we see those parents and their children through eyes of grace. As we pray for wisdom for ourselves, we can be praying for the parents around us as well. We are in this together! Gratefulness is a lifetime lesson – for us and for our children.
**Gina has a newly updated book entitled: “Grace Gifts”. You can purchase your copy at amazon.com!
“As parents we can be tempted to look for methods of parenting, when what we really need is principles. The principles found in “Grace Gifts” can be carried out a hundred different ways. They can actually be custom-fit to your particular family. “Grace Gifts” is a short book, is perfect for busy moms, and is filled with ideas and practical ways that can help your children understand God’s grace. It is one of those books you will want to reference over and over again.“