“And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful.” ~ Colossians 3:15
Teaching Gratitude with A Thankful Heart
While I was preparing to write this post, the Veggie Tales ‘Thankfulness’ song kept popping in my head. The one line that stood out the most was:
“Because a thankful heart is a happy heart!”
There is so much truth in that one little phrase. Unless you are content and thankful, you will never experience true joy. As parents, we want our children to be happy and experience true joy. Let’s be honest, it’s not easy though.
We live in a society that promotes self-glorification and instant gratification. So how in the world are we supposed to teach our children to have a thankful and happy heart?
Where Do We Even Start?
With a cup of coffee and Jesus.
The coffee is not imperative, but it can certainly help. If we can start our day in quiet simplicity, we can let Jesus form our hearts, so that we have the grace to form the hearts of our children.
Spending time in the Word, you can see that Jesus led by example. He gave thanks before feeding the 5000. He gave thanks when Lazarus rose from the dead and again when He broke the bread at the Last Supper.
When we show gratitude and are thankful, our actions speak louder than words. Our actions matter. They matter to us, our children and to God. And they’re teaching gratitude.
When I notice that my children are being especially selfish, I have to remind myself to look in the mirror.
How many times did I use Amazon Prime in the past few days or weeks?
Am I complaining a lot?
Am I taking the time to spend with Jesus in scriptures, prayer and writing in my journal?
The more wants I express or dissatisfaction I show, the more my children want for all of the things. They compare themselves to others and see that their life is lacking in material things.
I think this is completely normal and something that everyone encounters from time to time. It is easy to see what others have to be thankful for, but when it comes to being grateful for what we have, it can be a challenge at times, especially in teaching gratitude.
If I want to stop the madness and chaos in my own home, I have to calm the crazy in my heart, take inventory and be truly grateful.
Where to Start
Let’s be honest, most of us are grateful deep down in our hearts. We are thankful for our families, friends, and food on the table. Sometimes, we take the time and thank God for all of our blessings. And doesn’t it make us feel at peace when we do?
I am a practical person. When I am trying to grow spiritually or trying to instill a new habit, I need simple and effective ways to achieve my goals.
Keeping a gratitude journal is my tool of choice for becoming a more grateful person and for teaching gratitude to my children.
The Teaching Gratitude Journal
In the summer, I was introduced to a sweet little gratitude journal for kids. I had heard of gratitude journals or of keeping a list of things you are grateful for before, but nothing specifically aimed at children.
In addition to turning our hearts to God and offering up our thanksgiving in prayer and modeling gratitude to our children, gratitude journals help children to visualize what they are thankful for.
We used to mention our ‘thankfuls’ every evening before family prayer time but at some point, we dropped that ritual. Just recently we began spending about 3 minutes a day reflecting on the things that we are thankful for and record them in our journals.
This simple and effective tool has helped improve behaviors and attitudes in our home. I love that we are being more intentional and are making meaningful connections.
It’s so easy that you can do it too.
Gratitude in 3 Minutes a Day
Honestly, I have never timed how long we spend each day on this, but it doesn’t take very much time to be effective.
- Spend some time praying with your child individually or as a family.
- Invite the child to tell you about their day, highlighting all of the things that made them happy or feel blessed.
- Encourage them to write 3 things they are thankful for in their gratitude journals.
- If you are using the “3 Minute Gratitude Journals” I mentioned above, fill out the rest of the page.
Spend time doing this with each child, or invite them to do this on their own if they are old enough. For my younger children who cannot write without assistance, I pencil in their thankful list and they trace over it.
Sometimes children have a difficult time finding things to write down. At this point, just talk about their day. Remind them of what they did or ate that day. That usually prompts a quick reaction and an “Oh, yeah!” and they have three things in no time.
You might be surprised at some of their entries. Children’s sincerity can be so funny and refreshing at times.
Beyond the Journal
In helping ourselves and our children grow closer to Christ through gratitude journals, we become more aware of our blessings and it gets easier to write in our journals.
The first number of times helping my children come up with things to be thankful for, it was like pulling teeth. I even admit that I sometimes struggle with this. Our family is imperfect and some nights we forget to write in our journals and sometimes we are just trying to settle a crying baby or fussy toddler that we can’t focus.
If this happens to you, you know that God understands. After all, He entrusted you with the hearts of those little souls.
To help us to always be thankful, I began making Bible Verse posters to hang in our home. I want to bless your family with these posters as well.
I am including them as a gift to you. I am thankful that I don’t have to walk this journey alone. Enter your name & email below and you’ll instantly receive my Bible verse posters.Tina von Hatten, a busy homeschool mom of 8, writes to encourage, inspire and help other homeschool families create a rich learning environment that nurtures relationships, fosters creativity and pursues excellence. She does this over on her blog Meaningful Explorations.
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