After “dada” and “mama”, my daughter’s first two words were “peas” and “tanks”. We believed it was important to teach our daughter to be polite, considerate and appreciative as early as we possibly could. Fast forward sixteen years later and our daughter has become the polite, considerate, gracious young woman we hoped to raise. She will fight to the bitter end for God and what she believes is right, but her spirit is gracious.
Why was it so important to us that she be taught to be grateful? The Bible mentions the word “thanks” dozens of times. Almost all of them have the word “give” before it, as in “give thanks.” It only makes sense God as the Creator, would want His creation to be grateful. Not only for being created, but also for all of the other many blessings God provides for us on a regular basis.
If we are to share God’s love with others, we will also share our gratitude with everyone we meet. We will teach our children to thank everyone on a regular basis – from their teachers at the end of class to the coach at the end of practice to the person giving them change at the store – everyone who does anything for us deserves for us to show them God’s love by showing our appreciation.
Want to really make someone’s day? Teach your children how to write a meaningful thank you note. Note just “thanks for the”, but why they were so excited to get it or how they plan to use it. Bonus points if they add why the person who gave them the gift is so special to them.
Sometimes teaching our children to express their gratitude seems like more trouble than it is worth. The whining, complaining and procrastination can take a toll on even the most patient parent. Yet, if God put “give thanks” that many times in scripture, it must be important. Children who cannot learn to be grateful to the people they can see for the gifts they give them, will likely not be very grateful towards God (whom they can’t see) for His gifts (that can appear to come from anywhere but God).
Thankfully, many stores have really cute, low cost thank you notes. Or have your children design their own. When they are just learning to write, write most of the sentence for them and have them insert important words in their own handwriting. After first or second grade, most children should be able to write an entire thank you note, even if they still need help with spelling. Remember, the longer you do something for them, the more likely they are to claim an inability to complete the task on their own (learned helplessness.)
As with anything, the best way for your children to learn to be grateful is by watching you. As you run errands, become aware of thanking everyone who does even the slightest thing for you. Be the first one to pull out the thank you notes and start writing after Christmas or birthdays. Start all of your prayers with gratitude before you begin making any requests.
Have you found other ways to help your children express gratitude to God and others? Please share it with us in a comment below.