Teaching Children To Be Thankful

Once again Thanksgiving is upon us and many families will be gathering together soon to enjoy a feast. On Thanksgiving, we often take a moment to tell each other what we are thankful for.  Children usually enjoy getting in on the fun.

But being thankful should be a year-round thing. The Bible says:

“Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20, ESV).

“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18, ESV).

It is very important to be thankful even when life is going wrong. Believe me, I know all too well that this is not always easy. I fall short of being thankful when the world around me seems to be caving in.  But our children need to see us being thankful everyday of the year. Many parents try to force thankfulness onto their children, but thankfulness comes from the heart. Just because we make our children say “thank you,” doesn’t mean that they are truly thankful.

I believe that the best way to teach children to be thankful is for us to be intentional about showing thankfulness.  Here are six ways to teach thankfulness to children:

1. Every day make a list of what you’re thankful for and share it with your children. Ask them to list some of the things that they are thankful for.

2. Say “Thank you!”  This may sound simple, but many times throughout the day we don’t thank the people around us for the little things.  Thank your spouse for doing something you asked. Thank the bagger at the grocery store.  Thank the lady who lets you take her place. Just say “thank you” every chance you get.

3. Write a “thank you” note. My husband and I are old-fashioned when it comes to writing “thank you” notes. In today’s technological age, it’s become common to thank people via text messages, emails, and Facebook posts. Children need to know how to make a good old-fashioned “thank you” card. It brings a smile to the giver’s face.

4. Say “Thank you” to your children when they cooperate. Many people get in the habit of saying, “Good job” to their children, which becomes empty praise. Children, including infants, enjoy hearing that you are grateful for their cooperation. It makes them feel good.  Also, tell them every day why you appreciate them for being them!  This will make them want to do things for you!

5. Don’t force children to say, “thank you,” but rather, say it for them until they see how important thankfulness is. We want children to mean what they say!  Don’t worry, all of the children I know who weren’t forced into saying “thank you,” but had it modeled to them on a daily basis, didn’t take long to begin saying it themselves.

6. Thank the LORD every day!  Your children will quickly do the same!

May everyone have a happy Thanksgiving!  See this post on how to make it enjoyable for your children.

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Making Thanksgiving Enjoyable For Children Too

As we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving, let us be mindful to make sure the Holiday is enjoyable for our children as well.

Young children cannot sit quietly for long periods, so let them play before they eat as well as after they finish eating.  Bringing crayons and coloring books can help keep them occupied.

Encourage them to try new foods, but don’t force them to eat stuff they truly don’t like.  Try to have one thing that they like at the meal.

Model good manners to your children.  If they are old enough (3 years and up), have fun practicing good manners before Thanksgiving.  Just don’t expect perfection from young children as they are still learning and developing fine motor skills.

Let them participate in ways they can enjoy. Allow them to engage in conversations.  Ask them what they are grateful for, and talk about being grateful all year.

For young children, being in a new place and/or having a lot of people around may overwhelm them.  Be prepared to help your child take a break from all the activity.  Explain to guests that they need to respect your children’s personal space if your children aren’t comfortable hugging and kissing.  Suggest something less invasive that your children may be more comfortable with such as giving high fives.

Do your best to stick as closely to your children’s routines as possible.  Help prepare your children for changes by telling them what to expect beforehand.  When new transitions come up on Thanksgiving, be prepared to help your children get through them if they tend to struggle with transitions.

Finally, plan family activities that everyone can enjoy to encourage bonding with relatives that the children may not often see.

A few simple steps and some planning ahead can help make Thanksgiving enjoyable for all!

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good;
For His lovingkindness is everlasting” (Psalm 118:1, NASB).

“Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name” (Psalm 100:4, KJV).

*A special note: Some of us will be grieving on Thanksgiving and throughout the Holiday season as we’ve lost loved ones.  Please acknowledge, validate, and express that grief.  There is joy amidst the sorrow.  Take the time to feel the pain if needed and remember loved ones.

May everyone have a blessed Thanksgiving!!!

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