Gratitude is both immensely powerful and incredibly simple.
It is a practice, a perspective shift, a frame of mind, an attitude of the heart.
And as parents, it’s our responsibility and privilege to teach kids gratitude.
Raising thankful kids with grateful hearts can feel daunting in the world we live in, but thankfully it’s not hard.
In fact, in our home, we made one simple change to our daily routine ten years ago that has made a tremendous difference every day since. We see it in the tenor of our home, the fabric of our family, and in each heart.
Teaching gratitude to children isn’t the same as teaching them to say “”thank you.””
While that’s certainly an important lesson for kids to learn, the words are just the beginning.
Gratitude dwells much deeper than mere vocabulary or habit; it’s a heart attitude. Teaching our children gratitude isn’t an easy task; it takes intentional time and effort.
Children learn so much by watching their parents and other people around them.
The first way we start to create an attitude of gratitude in our children is by having one ourselves. We show them what it looks like!
Our kids watch us, listen to us, and pick up on how we feel.
When we’re given a gift and immediately express gratitude, they notice it.
When something rough happens and we respond with grace and thankfulness anyhow, they notice it.
And when we use words that are seasoned with thanksgiving and absent of entitlement, they notice it.
Those little moments are teaching them so much.
And of course we also celebrate Thankfulness. We love Thanksgiving and the natural joy and introspection that come with it – contemplating all the blessings we have.
We also enjoy our Thanksgiving traditions that enhance this time of year so much.
In fact, our kids often thank us for our traditions and for making this time of year so special.
But it wasn’t just my example or our annual holidays that really changed my kids’ hearts.
We were having one of “those” days where all anyone could really express was their frustration.
There were far more than our average number of squabbles, whining, and tantrums and I was getting closer and closer to my “I need to go hide in the bathroom and eat a piece of chocolate” point.
As we gathered for dinner and one of my children began to vocalize their disgust at the meal they.had.asked.me.cook, I was just about over it.
“That is IT. No one talks unless it’s to say something nice.”
The table was so silent, I half wondered if they were mirages and not actually my kids.
“Ooooookay, let’s try something new!” I said with equal parts enthusiasm and fear that it would blow up in my face. “Let’s each take turns saying things to be thankful for.”
They looks they gave me? Whoa. I was in for a struggle.
I went first and eventually each child followed along.
That was more than ten years ago and a day goes by that we don’t play The Thankful Game at least once.
Raising Thankful Kids
Something powerful shifted during our first ever round of the Thankful Game. That’s because 3 things happened at once:
First, it was a pattern interrupt. Complaining had sadly become a habit and we stopped the pattern. That created space for something new.
Next, it followed the advice from Paul in Philippians 4 and we began to think on things that were good and praiseworthy.
Last, we used our minds and our mouths in tandem to express thoughts. Positive thoughts. Thankful thoughts.
When all three of these factors combine, you see something happen.
Hearts begin to soften and change. Minds are transformed (Romans 12:1-2). And gratitude is leading us instead of frustration or entitlement.
As their words impact their minds and their actions, you’ll be amazed at how this simple gratitude activity results in thankful kids and a happier home!
Kids Gratitude Activity
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Lisa is a homeschooling mom of 8, missionary in Ukraine, and creator of simple yet effective homeschool resources for families who are raising kids who love to learn. She’s an avid reader and when she’s not busy around the home, playing with kids, volunteering, or creating curriculum she’s usually lost in the pages of a good book with a cappuccino in her hand.
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