Do you have those instances in your life that just stick out? You can see them so clearly? One of those of mine is from a doctor’s visit when I was a little girl. I had to go to the doctors and as I left my doctor gave me a tennis ball. He was an avid player and always had a crate of balls in his office. I was so excited. I remember as soon as my mom and I stepped out of the office I started to bounce it. That is when I saw a look on my mom’s face that I didn’t understand. Then the words came, “You didn’t say ‘Thank You.’”
I now know what that look was that I didn’t understand as a little girl, because unfortunately, I too have given that look on more than one occasion. It is a look of horror that your child is the most ungrateful person ever. I don’t know what it is about kids, but you can prep them tirelesssly, ‘remember to say thank you’ and when the moment arises, they are completely clueless. I will shoot my kids the look, and it still will not register in their brains. My Dad will regularly give my kids a few dollars when he sees them and I am continually dumbfounded that I have to mouth, “SAY THANK YOU” to them.
So how then do we teach our children to be thankful? Honestly, I think it starts with our own hearts and actions. As the old saying goes, habits are more easily caught then taught. How is your life when it comes to living a life of thankfulness? The Bible tells us in Ephesians 5:20, “giving thanks always for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (NIV). This is not just a random passage. This verse is smack in the middle of several on how to live a Christian life. Not only that, it is one of many verses on having an attitude of gratitude.
Give thanks always and for everything. I don’t know about you, but I know personally I have a lot of room to improve in that area. Am I modeling for my kids what a thankful life looks like?
Before our children can be thankful for material gifts or gestures, they need to have a heart that is thankful to God for all that He has created, including themselves. When I am out and about with my kids, I have started to offer up my thanks to God for His amazing work. We will be driving down the road and the sunset looks like it has set the sky on fire, and I just say, “Wow God, thank you so much for that amazing sky.” Or when we were at the beach recently and we were looking out across the ocean, I thanked God for His love and told my kids that God’s love for us is wider and deeper than the ocean. My hope is that in sharing how thankful I am to God for all He has created, my kids will develop a thankfulness of their own.
The same goes for other areas of being thankful too. When I write thank you notes to friends who had us over for dinner I let my kids see and know what I am doing. When I thank the cashier at the store, I pause and look them in the eye when I say it. When my husband does something to help me, I am sure to thank him in front of our kids. More is caught then taught.
Since November is a time to focus on thankfulness, the last few years we have done a thankful tree in our home. I found this large tree made for bulletin boards at a teacher store, and we put it on our wall. Each day, we add leaves with things we are thankful for written on them. I love doing this. I love taking the time to build up all that we are thankful for before we move into December and prepare to celebrate the Savior’s birth.
What are you thankful for today? Be intentional and model thankfulness to your kids, but know you may still need to remind them to “say thank you.”
About the Author: Heather Gerwing is a Stay-At-Home/Homeschooling-Mom of 4. She is a Jersey Girl at heart but has lived in Michigan for the last 13 years with her husband Jeff and their kids. Heather enjoys reading, coffee-ing, worshipping, and writing. She is passionate about her family and living this life, which God has blessed her with, to the full. You can find her at www.heathergerwing.com