It’s the time of the year for thankfulness. We do thankful things: we share with those who have less, give generously to the Salvation Army Bellringers, and look for ways to teach our children gratefulness so they can be thankful kids.
These are all good things. I’m glad that Thanksgiving and the holiday season remind us of the joy that comes with a thankful attitude.
Parents who want to raise thankful kids tend to take advantage of the holidays to instill gratefulness in a myriad of ways. And again, I’m totally on board with this. But if you truly want to raise thankful kids, then your strategy has to go way beyond Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Where does it all begin? And how does it grow in your kids? Mom and Dad, it has to start with YOU.
First of all, it’s important to understand this: Thankfulness is a mindset. It is a lifestyle. It is not a list of things you do. It’s very tempting to “be thankful” at Thanksgiving and during Christmas and convince ourselves that we are teaching our children thankfulness when all we are teaching them is that thankfulness is reserved for special occasions.
If you want to raise kids who are thankful, kids who easily express gratitude, kids who show gratitude in how they treat and respond to others, then thankfulness has to become a lifestyle for YOU.
It has to be something you nurture in your own heart all year long, because only then will it start to overflow onto your kids.
Your Family Culture
As it starts to overflow onto your kids, you will have many opportunities to infuse gratefulness into your family culture. Talk to them about what thankfulness is and why it matters, how it influences their outlook and their relationships. Weave thankfulness into your family core values and talk about why being thankful is so life-impacting. Stand firm on those core values.
Culture shapes character, and the family culture of thankfulness you create will shape the character of your child. They will become thankful because that’s what they know.
There will be days when thankfulness is the farthest thing from your minds. You are stressed, your kids are tired, your spouse is grumpy, work is hard, school is boring, friends are hurtful–being grateful is NOT what you feel like today!
At this point, this is what your kids need to see in you and to learn for themselves: Thankfulness is always a choice. It’s okay to be honest and say something like, “Honey, Mom/Dad is tired and feeling kinda grumpy today, but I know that there’s always something to be thankful for. Can you help me think of some things?” Or you could say, “I’m having a rough day, but I’m going to choose to be grateful because I have so much to be thankful for.”
This is never easy. Choosing to be thankful when thankful is the last thing you feel is hard work. But it’s important to remember that you DO have a choice and the choice that you make will not only set an example of thankfulness for your kids, it will help you get in a better frame of mind.
Although the Bible says that “God loves a cheerful giver,” this does not mean that you will always feel like wanting to give. Just as thankfulness can be a choice, so it is with giving.
Giving changes us sometimes more than it changes the recipient. I really can’t explain why, but something good happens inside of us when we give to others. Perhaps a bit of our self -focus is stripped away, perhaps we see others with more clarity, or perhaps we realize that true joy really does come when we give.
As a family, look for ways to give. Make giving a part of your family culture and core values. Talk about generosity with your kids. Point out when others exhibit generosity. Talk about sharing, how it helps others, makes others feel good, and positively impacts them.
Your desire to raise thankful kids has to be YOUR DECISION. In other words, it’s not going to happen by default. You have to commit yourself to thankfulness yourself, then be intentional about passing that on to your kids–all year round.
Your decision to grow a thankful spirit will change your life and the lives of your kids.
When I started counting my blessings, my whole life turned around. Willie Nelson.