Ingratitude:?An ‘heir-born’ virus

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? Sometimes, kids can be that way because they’re still children. But, many times they act ungrateful because they are very impressionable. It doesn’t take much to cave into the impressions that this culture perpetuates that more is better.

They can catch it from the culture but they can also learn it from their parents. The virus of ingratitude is caught in homes where gratitude isn’t taught. The question for every dad to ask himself: Are my kids learning gratitude from me?

A thankful heart is a perspective that has to be cultivated. Fathers 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. It starts with dad. As a dad, 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. Dads must continually talk aloud about what they are grateful for. When 8-year-old Johnny comes running up to announce that his friend’s dad just came home with the newest electronic toy, Dad needs to have a response prepared.

“That’s great honey,” 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 you aren’t in foster care, but you are with us. I’m grateful for us.”

Will Johnny learn gratitude on the first go around? Absolutely not!

Gratitude is something that has to be learned over time.

In Philippians 4:11, the Apostle Paul made the awesome statement when he said,“I have learned to be content,” indicating that his contentment didn’t come naturally.
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…” It sounds dorky, 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 you’ll see someone who is handicapped and has no feet.

It’s equally amazing to realize how long it takes our teens to be grateful for anything. That’s OK.

Once they get it, follow up later on about the things your teens say they are thankful for.

“Billy,” Dad might mention in the garage, “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 and verbalization of the right things to be grateful for is the second, the third step is to give 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 gratitude game is best ended with a prayer of thanksgiving, but gratitude can’t stop there. Gratitude is best learned when gratitude is expressed.

Two words are 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 dad that spends time teaching his children to be grateful … so grateful that they want to give rather than get … is a dad who has done well in his training. No one and no economy can ever rob a child of that 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 has become – just another holiday.

Dr. Robert Barnes is the president of Sheridan House Family Ministries. He and his wife, Rosemary, are authors and speakers on marriage and family issues. 

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