Have your kids caught the virus? It’s the most contagious and one of the most dangerous viruses a person can catch and it is “heir” born. Most of our culture has it.
Are your kids negative and ungrateful? Some of that is because they’re still children. Much of it is because they are very impressionable. It doesn’t take much to cave into the impressions this culture leaves that more is better.
They can catch it from the culture, but they can also learn it from their parents. Ingratitude is caught in a home where gratitude isn’t taught. The question for every parent to ask themselves: Are my kids learning gratitude from me?
Set the right example
A thankful heart is a perspective that has to be cultivated. We as parents need to lead when it comes to attitude. If I’m not thankful for what I have, I’ll never be satisfied until I have more. Advertisers love to salivate over the attitude of ingratitude.
Developing the maturity of a thankful heart is an extremely important part of parenting. Am I grateful for what I have or do I have to have more? Do my kids see me bringing home more and better things? Do I set a personal example of gratitude or greed?
Setting the right example is part of the training, but more is needed. We must continually talk “out loud” about what we are grateful for. When our eight year old comes running up to announce that their friend just came home with the newest electronic toy, we need to have a response prepared.
“That’s great honey,” Mom or Dad can say without demeaning the other family. “Sometimes I’m amazed at all the things we have but most of all I’m most grateful for us … that we have each other. That God has given us a family, I’m grateful for us.”
Will our child learn gratitude on the first go round? Absolutely not! Gratitude is something that has to be learned over time. The Apostle Paul made the awesome statement, I have learned to be content (Philippians 4:11) indicating it didn’t come natural… he had to learn contentment.
Learning contentment begins with choosing to be grateful. Every now and then play the dinner table game I’m Grateful For… Sounds goofy, but it’s amazing how younger children can sit at the dinner table and say they are grateful for things like their feet. Then sometime that month see someone handicapped and without feet.
It’s equally amazing to realize how long it takes our teens to be grateful for anything. That’s okay. Once they get it, follow up later on what you hear your teen say. Take the time to praise them: “It was awesome to hear you say you’re grateful to still have grandparents. That was something I had forgotten about. What made you think of that tonight? You taught me something today at dinner. Thank you.”
Gratitude can’t be fully understood until it has a focal point. If setting an example of gratitude is the first step in teaching gratitude, then verbalization of the right things to be grateful for is the second. The third step is to give the children a focal point for gratitude. As we teach our children to take their focus off of things, we need to give them another focal point for their gratitude. Teach them to be grateful to God for all that they have.
This game and every discussion is best ended with a prayer of thanksgiving, but gratitude can’t stop there. Gratitude is best learned when gratitude is expressed. There are two words combined to make the holiday called Thanksgiving. My thanks to God ought to be expressed by my giving.
Children are born to get. Children must be taught to give. When they grow up understanding the incredible joy that comes from giving, they have learned to be content.
The parent that spends time teaching their children to be grateful – so grateful that they want to give rather than get – is a parent who has done well in their training. No one and no economy can ever rob that child of joy.
Do some family giving this Thanksgiving. Take back the focus and put it where it should be. You’ll be making Thanksgiving a Holy Day rather than the contraction it’s become: just a holiday.
Visit parentingonpurpose.org for more advice from Dr. Bob Barnes and Torrey Roberts.