At Thanksgiving, we pass around a basket of popcorn kernels and everyone takes a few. Then we take turns sharing what we are thankful for (1 thing for each kernel). Inevitably there are tears as we think of God’s goodness and how much we love each other. A great way to cultivate gratitude.
Thanksgiving is a wonderful reminder to give thanks all year long! Gratitude can happen every day through the seasons. Even better, it can become a habit that your children take with them to adulthood. Here are some practical ways to cultivate gratefulness in your children that becomes part of their lives.
Set The Pace
Moms, we set the pace for our children. More is caught than taught. Our children will become who we are, rather than who we want them to be. Yikes! That can be overwhelming. But don’t worry—Jesus is with us in everything. When we want to cultivate gratitude, He is overjoyed to help us.
So, start with prayer. Tell the Lord how you want to be more thankful and teach your children to be more grateful. Ask Him to open everyone’s eyes to His goodness. It’s everywhere!
“Let’s go see the cherry trees. They’re in bloom,” Gramps suggested one morning when I was visiting from college.
A few hours later, my grandmother, grandfather, and I were driving a few blocks over to a lovely U-shaped street with cherry blossoms growing on each side. Gramps drove slowly down the street, under the pink canopy of flowers. I was thrilled to drink in all the beauty.
My grandparents taught me to open my eyes to the world around me and appreciate the beauty, giving thanks to the Lord.
I notice the blue skies and puffy white clouds that fill our Florida days. I look for the red cardinal that nests in our oak tree. I take time out when the azaleas are in bloom to get in the car to show my children their beauty just like my grandparents showed me.
“What a beautiful sunset,” I would say to my littles. “Let’s thank God for painting the sky just for us!”
Cultivating wonder is simply opening our eyes to the beauty around us.
Keep An Answered Prayer Chart
One year in college, my roommate Audrey and I found ourselves praying for many of our friends in the dorm and God answered with some amazing miracles. We decided to make a simple “Answered Prayer Chart” on poster board. We listed all our prayers in 1 column and the answers in the column right beside it. Then, we hung it on the wall. It strengthened our faith and filled our hearts with thankfulness.
Here’s what surprised us. All our non-Christian friends came in our dorm constantly to read the chart. They were intrigued.
Children are intrigued, too, by this chart because it is visible proof that God answers the prayers they pray. That leads to faith and gratitude.
Play the Encouragement Game
We used to just do this on birthdays, but now we do it all the time. We love to play the encouragement game. We pick one person to be encouraged. All the rest of us tell the person what we appreciate about them. I think this has played a big role in our children as they cultivate gratitude for one another and treating one another with kindness.
It reminds me of Paul who always starts his letters to the New Testament churches by thanking God for them—not a vague thanks, but with concrete examples. Which reminds me of a character in a book.
Read Pollyanna & Play the Glad Game
Read Pollyanna by Eleanor Porter or watch the old Disney movie Pollyanna. What a delight the heroine is! You see, her father taught her to play the Glad Game, to always find something to be thankful for, even in bad situations.
You can play the Glad Game with your children to chase away apathy, grumpiness, and ingratitude. Simply look for something good in everything that happens. For example, when she received crutches in the missionary box for Christmas, her father said, “Well, at least you don’t have to use them!”
Playing this game leads to a lot of laughter and silliness—a frequent result of being thankful! Thankfulness often bubbles over to joy!
You can read more here: The Glad Game!
Go On a God Hunt Each Day
Sometimes, I notice when the Lord protects me—like when there’s a near miss on the highway. Other times, I’m convinced that God is protecting me and I don’t even see.
Going on a God Hunt is simply looking for God’s work in your life. As always, it starts with us Moms making it natural. Sharing things like: “This is what the Lord showed me in my Bible reading today.” Or “Hey, God did something amazing.” Or “God really helped me control my temper. This is what happened…”
God is actively involved in our lives and a God Hunt opens our eyes to see it!
For more on Christian parenting, read 6 Things I Learned about Parenting and Homeschooling from Jesus in Luke 8 & 9
Thank Him When Things Go Wrong
This is something the Lord taught me when I unexpectedly became a worship leader at the age of 42. I felt very insecure!
I was leading a team of skilled musicians and I felt so inadequate. My nervousness led to so many embarrassing mistakes: coming in at the wrong place, getting my timing off. One time I completely forgot the melody of a song I was leading.
The Lord taught me to thank Him every time I made a mistake. So, I would make a mistake and then whisper to the Lord, “Thank you so much for this opportunity to learn humility” or something similar. Soon, I was completely fine with mistakes. I knew that God would work them all out for good and He did!
This spilled over to other areas of my life. When we faced a financial crisis, I would say “Lord, thank you for this financial challenge and the opportunity for you to show off!” And the Lord would come through! But until He did, I had so much more peace when I was thankful.
So, I would say to me teens, “This really stinks, but let’s thank Him in faith and trust Him.”
We faced some really difficult things in our family and there have been so many times that it was really hard to thank God, but when we chose to thank Him and pray for a miracle, He brought peace and joy while we waited for Him to come through!
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There are surprise benefits when you cultivate gratitude. Thankful people are happier people. You will actually feel healthier—grumpiness can actually make you sick.
People will also love having grateful people around! Positive people are appreciated! There is enough complaining in the world. Thankful people are a breath of fresh air.
God is so good and His mercies are new every morning. We just have to open our eyes to take it all in with a grateful heart.
Let me know what you do to cultivate gratitude in your children in the comments below.
God bless you and Happy Thanksgiving!
Meredith Curtis, pastor’s wife, homeschooling mom of five amazing children, and doting grandmother, loves to encourage families in their homeschool adventure. She is the author of Travel God’s World Geography Jesus Fill My Heart & Home Bible Study, and HIS Story of the 20th Century. You can check out her books, curricula, unit studies, and Bible studies at PowerlineProd.com. Find her online at PowerlineProd.com, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, and listen to her at Finish Well Podcast
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