In our fallen, sinful nature, we humans are not naturally thankful beings. Because it does not just happen, we must help our children grow in thankfulness until is woven into the fabric of who they are.
Romans 1:18-32 shares an interesting perspective on how mankind came to the place of having rebellious hearts, filled with every kind of sin imaginable. Verse 21 is the key:
Because when they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, neither were they thankful, but they became vain [futile] in their imaginations, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
Here are some practical ways you can begin to build the habit of thankfulness in your family.
Encourage your family to go on a God hunt. A God hunt is a little like playing a game of hide and seek with the Lord. Ask your children at the beginning of the day to keep on the lookout for ways God is blessing them, answering a prayer, protecting them, or helping them with their attitude or schoolwork.
At the end of the day, whether at family mealtime or bedtime, ask them to tell you about what they discovered on their God hunt. Ask specific questions, such as
- What good things did you see happening today that might have been God blessing you?
- Did He help you solve a problem or help you get a hard part of your schoolwork done well?
- Did He keep you safe in some way?
- Did He help you be kind to a family member when you didn’t feel like being kind?
- Can you think of a particular thing you were/are thankful today?
Remind them that every good thing which happens to us is a gift from God, because He is always good to us. James 1:17 tells us, Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with Whom is no changing nor shadow of turning.
Encourage your children to thank God with you in prayer for the good things they noticed happening during the day.
As a family, read, discuss, and memorize Bible verses and passages which talk about thankfulness. Here are a few to get you started:
- Psalm 100
- Colossians 3:15
- Psalm 30:4, 12
- Psalm 136
Have older children find additional Bible verses which mention giving thanks. This is a great way for them to learn how to use a concordance or Google to find particular verses. (We really like using e-Sword, a free program you can download to your computer. It is an excellent tool for Bible study, with a great concordance system and many other features.)
Encourage your children to be thankful toward other people, too. It’s not only important for politeness’ sake; it’s also a heart attitude each of us should cultivate. You can use the same approach you used with the God hunt:
- Did anyone do something nice for you, that you should be thankful to them for? What was it?
- Did you thank them? (If it’s a family member, have them follow through and do it right then, if they forgot earlier.)
- What do Mommy and Daddy do for you that you could be thankful for? (Again, encourage them to say thank you on the spot.)
- How can you show someone you appreciate them? (Ideas: saying thank you, hugs, giving kindness in return)
The key to helping our children develop grateful hearts is to consistently and diligently give them opportunities to think about what they can be thankful for, and then act upon it. It is a lesson which must be reviewed many times before it becomes habitual. A thankful person is usually a contented person, too — a great character quality in itself.
Character Building for Families, Volume 1, our topical Bible character study manual, has a 12-day gratitude unit, which will further help you and your children grow in the grace of thankfulness. To find out more, visit our Character Building for Families website.
Lee Ann Rubsam is the author of Character Building for Families, Volumes 1 & 2 and numerous other books on homeschooling, prayer, and Christian living. She homeschooled her now-grown children for 25 years and continues to mentor younger homeschool moms. Visit Lee Ann at Character Building for Families.com and The Character Building for Families Blog.