How We Help Our Children Express Gratitude

With Thanksgiving coming soon, many of us are counting our blessings a little more than usual.  That’s wonderful!  I love hearing what folks are thankful for.  A kind husband.  Bedtime for kids.  Enough money.  Wine.  You get the idea.  There are as many things to be thankful for as there are grateful souls in the world. 

At our house we do a couple of things to try to keep the “attitude of gratitude” all year round.  We hope our children will grow up with the positive outlook one gains from the ready recognition of blessings. 

The first thing we do to encourage our children to be thankful is to gently remind them when thanks are in order.  You’ve all done this.  The lady at the bank hands your kid a lollypop. You tilt your head toward your kid. 

“What do we tell the nice lady?”

And then your kid thanks the nice lady. I bet you didn’t even realize you were teaching your child something beyond common courtesy.  But you are!  You’re teaching your child to recognize a blessing. 

The other thing we do is to pray regularly.  When I was growing up our bedtime prayers consisted of the usual rhyme. 

“Now I lay me down to sleep…” 

 That is a great prayer, and littles love it, partly because it rhymes, partly, probably, because it is the same each time, lending another layer of consistency to the night-time routine. 

 At our house we do something a little different though.  I ask the kids to come up with two things they’re thankful for each bedtime.  Sometimes they have to dig deep to come up with any, sometimes they dish out the same ones several nights in a row, and sometimes they shock me with things I would never have thought to be thankful for.  Like Homework.  Really?  

Although a child who is thankful for homework makes me a little worried that there may have been a mix up at the hospital, I’m glad to see both of our children expressing gratitude.  Sometimes they even encourage me without realizing it. 

One such instance was a week or so ago.  We were leaving the house to take the six-year-old to the school bus.  We were on the verge of being late.  We’d searched the house for the coats only to remember at the last minute that they were in the car, the thirty-two degree car.  Then we’d nearly forgotten her lunch box.  All of this on top of the fact that I am not a morning person.  Then the little one was dawdling behind.  I turned to hurry her and saw her kneeling in the dirt, hands folded. 

 “Dear Jesus, Thank you for my love, Thank you for my family.   Amen”. 

Then she was up and running. I wanted to be mad that we were almost late, and that the jeans she’d just put on were already filthy, but seeing her take a moment to give thanks, without my prompting her to, made the rest of my day.  And I was thankful.

What are you thankful for?

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