Cultivating Thankfulness

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One of the things that truly warms my mother’s heart is when one of my children will randomly turn to me during an outing and say, “Thanks for bringing us here, Mama.” Wow! It makes all the herding cats worth it.

Out of the mouth flows what’s in the heart. And so, it’s a double blessing to hear our kids says, “Thanks.”

But, teaching thankfulness? Well, that’s a tall order. How can we go about cultivating thankful hearts in our children?

Here are some ideas:

1. Remember hard work is a good thing.

Unfortunately, our culture has come to a point where many think that hard work is bad. It’s not. Working for something you really want helps you appreciate it more.

And it’s okay to ask our kids to work. Chores are good for kids, instilling responsibility and pride in accomplishments. It’s to their benefit to make them wash dishes, take out the trash, or earn the money to buy that new toy.


2. Read stories of other places, times, and experiences.

We live in a world of fast-moving events and technologies. It’s easy to think that life has always been like this. My kids have games stations and toys galore.

Yet they were astonished to hear that my dad didn’t have running water in his childhood home when he was young. By reading stories of other experiences, especially those that aren’t as lavish as our own, we get a glimpse of the bigger world and a better sense of the blessings we enjoy.

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3. Talk about ways to express thankfulness.

Writing thank you notes or verbally saying thanks are great things to teach our children. While they might not understand what they are saying when they first learn the words, eventually it sinks in. It’s a standard expression of general politeness.

I think that when we talk with our kids about how to express appreciation for others, it helps them understand the concept of being thankful and becomes habit. The action, hopefully, transforms from a rote behavior to a natural expression that just rolls off the tongue.

4. Share with others.

I remember going to childhood birthday parties and being a little bummed that I was giving the Birthday Child such a great gift. I wanted it for myself! But, sharing good things with others is good for us as well as for them.

Giving feels good the more we do it and helps us appreciate better how others have given to us. Learning to live life with an open hand protects us from selfishness and blesses others.

5. Live it.

Obviously, the most effective way to teach our children to be thankful is to model it for them. If I grumble about my life, I’m teaching them to grumble. But, if I remember to count my blessings, they will learn that instead.

How do YOU encourage thankfulness at your house?

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  1. Yes, Jessica. I agree. And it’s more than just teaching them about politeness in our day and age, it’s training them to understand that being thankful matters. It’s always a goal that in whatever we do, we’re training them to the cross. So, when they understand the concept that thankfulness matters, maybe one day they will come to the cross and truly be thankful for the one who died for their sins. Choosing Gratitude by Nancy Leigh DeMoss is a great book and one to be recommended. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Great post! My husband encourages a grateful attitude in our children by thanking me after meals. He has asked them to do this since they were little, and now they often remember to do it on their own–many times with a hug for mom to go with the “thank you.”

    1. @Kristi, we do this, too. It’s those little habits to develop, to make them part of the fabric of our lives, in spirit and deed. 😉

  3. As part of our Thanksgiving celebration, we put up a “Thanksgiving tree” about three weeks before Turkey Day. It starts out as a bare trunk on the refrigerator (made from a brown craft foam sheet), and each day each member of the family writes something they are thankful for on a construction paper fall leaf, and we tape it to the tree. This year, I found 75 ct packages of silk loose fall leaves in the Target $1 bin, so we are using those to save on the cutting time.:) It’s one of the things we do to try to emphasize thankfulness. Maybe it’s working–on Friday, our 3 year old son decided that he was thankful for his 4 month old sister for his leaf for the day. Still makes me smile to think about!