One thing I have observed lately is that we seem to have lost something in our society…the art of thankfulness. We live in a country where we are extremely blessed. We have nice houses, plenty to eat and every form of entertainment known to mankind. Yet, if you look around, you’ll see unhappy people, clamoring for more. On a recent trip to a giant shopping mall in another city, we observed all the people, rushing from store to store in pursuit of yet another thing to purchase. In the news recently, there is much talk of how we have to get more money into the hands of the people, so they will purchase more things in order to stimulate the economy. We have entered the season of Christmas, where ads will abound telling us what we have to receive in order to make it a perfect Christmas. It’s all about getting more, more, more. What ever happened to being thankful for what we already have?
One of our primary goals as parents has been to teach our children to be thankful. We have found that this doesn’t seem to come naturally, and requires some concerted effort in imparting this to our children. It also doesn’t seem to be common in our society. From a very young age, we required our children to express their thanks for even simple things. In a restaurant, we taught them to order their own meals politely and then to say thank you when the waiter delivered their food. I can’t tell you how many times waiters have commented on their manners, which always makes me feel somewhat sad. Shouldn’t this be normal and not exceptional behavior? We have also required our children to write their own thank you notes when they receive a gift. We’ve taught them to express their thanks politely when someone does something kind for them, such as holding a door open or blessing them when they sneeze. Now, this act of being thankful is a habit in their lives and doesn’t require reminding. Being consistent in teaching these things when they were small has reaped a harvest of thankfulness in their lives.
How did we teach these things to our children? Mostly, it involves modeling. If your children observe you being thankful for what you have, they will be thankful, too. If they see you expressing yourself in thankfulness, they will be more likely to do so themselves. Occasionally, though, it has required more extreme measures. Once, when my oldest daughter was in first grade and going through a “grumpy” phase, we tired of her constant negative attitude. We began sending her to the bathroom to sing a few rounds of “This is the day that the Lord has made” (loudly!) until she could come out and be thankful. While, at the time, she thought we were being unjust and ridiculous, she still remembers this form of discipline and now laughs about it. On another occasion, our middle child was going through a phase of his own, being unappreciative and grouchy. We presented him with a new notebook and pencil and called it his “thankful” notebook. Whenever he was struggling with his attitude, we would send him to his room with his notebook to make a list of all the things for which he was thankful. We taught the children to take the words of Philippians 4:8 to heart and to think about things that are lovely and honorable instead of dwelling on what is negative.
As we enter into the celebration of Thanksgiving this week, take a look at your family. Are you living in a state of thankfulness or a constant seeking after more? Take the time to sit down as a family and talk about what God has given you and how you can show your thankfulness. Talk to your kids about what our forefathers endured in order to give them this great country that we have the privilege of living in. And instead of just serving up some turkey and mashed potatoes this Thursday, serve up something life-changing…the practice of thankfulness.
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