Teaching Thankfulness

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 Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thes. 5:16-18

I don’t know if any of you parents out there can relate or not, but I have one of those kids who just never seems quite satisfied with what she has. This morning at breakfast, I made fresh waffles with homemade syrup, hot tea, and cut up some fruit while my two five year-old girls milled around around my feet, impatiently waiting for their food. I shooed them to the table and brought their food out to them, a couple of things at a time. My one daughter, my natural grumbler, said, “Ah, do we have to eat our fruit first?,” with a whine that competes with fingernails on a chalkboard for irritating your nerves. While I was running around, trying desperately to provide a healthy, delicious breakfast out of thin air (I have no idea how long it has been since I have gone grocery shopping) and this was the the thanks I got. Ingratitude.

When I was a child myself, there was a song we used to sing at Bible school that went a little something like this: “Are you humbly grateful or grumbly hateful, what’s your attitude? Do you grumble and groan or let it be known you’re grateful for all God’s done for you?” I admit, as a child it only made me grumble more to be reminded of my ungrateful attitude. As an adult, it convicts me still. I have often wondered how to teach my kids gratitude. I heard someone say recently that teaching them to say please and thank you is not teaching them gratitude, only manners. That is very important of course, but it is only an outward response to how our parents have conditioned us to respond, not a reflection of the heart.

For Christmas my husband got me the book “One Thousand Gifts”. For those of you who haven’t read it, I can only use one word to sum it up: ouch. In the book, the author records her journey from struggling through this life, stuck in the past pains she has endured, unable to move forward and embrace the grace of God. She concluded that the best way to  revel in the grace of God was to find things to be thankful for in every moment of every day. She keeps a journal of things she is thankful for, from the precious moments with her children, to grated cheese. Through her journey, she experiences and embraces the grace of God and a new appreciation for life and the many blessings of God, and is ultimately changed by them. This challenged me to keep a journal of my own. I am not disciplined by nature in anything accept being undisciplined, so I have to make a conscious effort to record all the things, small moments, tender gifts that I have to be thankful for. It really has helped change me to realize that no matter how bleak or stressful the day, my blessings far outweigh any struggles. And my greatest gift of all, salvation in Christ, is a gift that can never be taken from me.

So, today, after hearing my daughter complain because she wanted to eat the waffles before the fruit (though I neither suggested or told her she needed to do so) we decided to make gratitude journals for them as well.

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I had these very simple journals set aside for something else, but you could easily make one yourself with construction paper and computer paper, folded and stapled together. I gave them stickers and a small photo of themselves to adhere to the front of it. They wrote their names and drew a picture on the inside. I have always noticed with things like this, if you want your children to feel connected to this themselves, it helps to make it uniquely their own.

Once they had decorated it and proudly posed for pictures, I wrote down for them the things they said they were thankful for. Here are a few of my favorite things that made their list:

1.God

2.Seeing and smelling flowers

3.Singing songs

4.God makes us better when we’re sick

5.Cinderella

6.Mommy and Daddy

7.Our warm jammies and clothes

8.Staying at home with Mommy

9.Taking walks

10.That you are my mommy and Daddy is my daddy.

Here are the end results:

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My new goal is this: when any of us want to complain, we will sit and write the things that we are thankful for instead, giving thanks in ALL circumstances, because we know this is God’s will for us in Christ, our Lord.

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