3 Tips for Instilling Thankfulness in Our Children

My almost 5 year old daughter told me the other day that she didn’t like our mailman any more.

How come? I asked, confused.

Because, she said, he keeps delivering these magazines that make me want to buy more stuff.

How observant. She’s right. Not that it is the mailman’s fault, but how often do we receive those magazines that make moms desire a fancier kitchen or living room, or for dads, a garage filled with awesome power tools?

I wonder if John D. Rockefeller ever realized that one of his most quoted sayings would be his answer to the question, “How much is enough?” The millionaire responded, “Just a little bit more.”

I don’t know about you, but I do not want my kids to have that mind set. And when parents themselves struggle with desires for materialism, how are we to begin instilling gratefulness and thankfulness in our children?

1. Serve Together as a Family

I’ve often heard, “The family that prays together, stays together.” While this might be true, I wonder if it would be a stronger testimony to our children if we lived by the motto, “The family who serves together, grows the kingdom.” When children watch their parents serving food to the hungry, giving clothes to the orphans, and packing shoe boxes for poor children half way around the world, that sends a powerful message to those observant hearts.

Part of being thankful for the things we have is understanding that others have not. Once children realize that the world does not revolve around them, then they are ready to begin seeing other people through a godly lens and the kingdom will grow.

2. Show Thanksgiving Every Day

Having a certain day set aside for thanksgiving is great. Who wouldn’t want to eat yummy food with family and wear pilgrim hats? It’s even good to see people post on Facebook one thing they are thankful for each day during the month of November. I love all of the blog posts showing directions for a Thanksgiving Tree and Gratefulness Chains. But there are eleven other months. Aren’t we to be grateful during those days as well?

I challenge you, as I challenge myself, to begin showing thanksgiving multiple times each day in front of your kids. Show gratitude for the blessings you have as a family, and individually. Perhaps show gratitude for what you DO NOT have. Around the dinner table is a great time to do this. Or maybe in the car on the way to the grocery store or the library. In fact, take it a step farther and combine this Tip with Tip One: How can you show thankfulness to the librarians at the library? or the grocery store clerk? Do you know their names? Everyday practical thanksgiving glorifies the Father who blesses us even when we do not deserve it.

Grateful quote

3. Give Generously

God loves a cheerful giver. When people hear about “giving” many automatically begin thinking about giving to charities or to special opportunities at church. Yes, those are important; but are you consistently giving your 10% tithe to your church, or do you grit your teeth and say, “Next month“? Your children need to see you making that a priority. We give to God because we are grateful for His blessings and because we recognize the fact that everything ultimately belongs to Him anyway.

Once you have established your tithing routine, now ask yourself, “What else can I give to others?” A meal after a surgery, free child care for a young couple, a gift card for someone needing groceries, picking up the dry cleaning for someone because you are already out, dropping flowers off at a shut-in’s home, clothes your children have outgrown. Your children will watch what you do and they will learn to either be thankful, or selfish.

Parents, we have a giant to fight called “Materialism”. The stores, the TV, the billboards all yell and laugh at us. They dare us to do something radical. But we have the power of the Lord, the God of Israel, on our side. We have the sling of the Bible and a little stone called Truth. Will you join me in working out the Truth of Thanksgiving with your kids today? We need to do some stone throwing!

Anne Marie has a passion for Bible study and teaching the Word to adults and children. She blogs at futureflyingsaucers.com.