Teaching your children to be thankful this Thanksgiving
There may be nothing more disheartening to a parent than an ungrateful child.
We work so hard to give them everything they need, everything we didn’t have, more than others could imagine, yet too often it isn’t good enough, they complain, they want more. It’s a familiar scenario, right?
The hard truth is, though, that no one is born being thankful. Isn’t that a strange thought? We all have been given a lot; even life itself was given to us through the labor of another. But we frequently approach our lives with a posture of entitlement- I deserve more, I need more, I want more. Somewhere along the line, we’ve made an unconscious choice to see our lives from the vantage point of scarcity instead of abundance.
Our kids are no different. They quickly forget what they do have and lust after the things they don’t. And in a consumer-driven, social media saturated world that markets products to them before they even know how to speak, it’s no wonder that they struggle to find gratitude.
It has always surprised me that the children who have the least are the most grateful and full of joy. I’ve lived in a developing country where orphaned children are sick and nearly starving, but if they can find a couple of plastic bags to crumple together to use as a soccer ball, they are grateful.
Even here at home where many of us have every advantage, there are children among us whose bodies are failing them. We wish for bigger houses and shinier toys, but they wish simply to still be alive next year. Somehow, they are the most thankful, contented children I’ve known.
Of course, the answer isn’t to wish hardship or illness on our children or ourselves, but we can learn a lot from those with a thankful heart.
Why cultivating gratitude is important for your childrenIf you asked a bunch of parents what their greatest wish for their children is, perhaps many would tell you that they just want their kids to be happy.
But how do you provide happiness?
Many are seeking it, but few seem to have found it. Happiness often seems contingent on our assembling the perfect set of circumstances. We say to ourselves, “If this happens, then I’ll be happy.” Except that we often can’t control our circumstances, and that makes happiness seem out of reach most of the time.
Instead of happiness, though, I think a better pursuit is joy. Joy is happiness that isn’t contingent upon our circumstances. Studies that have aimed to identify what makes people joyful have consistently found that joy is always tied to one thing: gratitude.
It’s not when we get everything we want that we magically become joyful. There is always something more to want. It’s when we become grateful for what we have that we find ourselves feeling joyful.
And isn’t that what we ultimately desire for our kids?
How to instill gratitudeNow is the perfect moment to begin talking to your kids about what it means to be grateful. Here are some ideas that can help you cultivate thankful hearts in your home.
- Have a Thanksgiving show-and-tell
- Put on your “Grateful Goggles”
- Focus on hearts, not only actions
- Model gratitude for your children
- Share without shaming
- Serve and sacrifice
During this season of thanksgiving, revisit what it means to truly be thankful. Don’t just say the words, but live them. Your kids will be grateful that you did.