Teaching Children to be Thankful

It is culturally acceptable as Westerners to heap presents on our children at various holidays. We love to get presents and as parents we enjoy giving our children the things they want. In a land of plenty it is very easy to slip into a life of insatiable desires. Do we teach our children to say please and thank you only to teach them from our actions to be greedy and demanding?  If this question leaves us feeling convicted and uncomfortable then perhaps it is a time for change!

Typically, thankfulness is not the feeling you get when you get what you want or even what you don’t deserve. That is an emotional response of happiness. Happiness is based on what happens. Thankfulness is a choice. Stopping to say thank you for what is given to you or done for you is a learned response. It is not naturally our instinct to say thank you. We have to teach our children to be thankful.

I wonder how many of us realize that when our children aren’t happy with what life gives or what is done to them that this is a major learning opportunity for us to teach them to be thankful.  Sadly, I never really gave this much thought as a parent raising my two girls. I have given it MUCH thought as a teacher of Third Culture Kids who wants to help them get the most out of life without becoming either arrogant or victimized by the pleasures and traumas of life.

Being thankful is a command for Christians. As teachers, parents, or mentors, it is our job to model and teach how to give thanks in everything. 1 Thessalonians 5:12-22 is admonition to a godly lifestyle. In the very center of it are these words: “in everything give thanks. For this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  Just think about that for a moment.

Is it a sin to give our children what they want? Is is it being ungrateful to be thankful when you get what you want? Important questions demand honest answer!  It is the heart attitude that determines the answer. Even as believers our flesh wars against our spirit. It’s about knowing that we’re pleasing to the Lord. If I can only give thanks when I get what I want, then I need to examine my heart and look to the Lord to redirect my attitudes. Let’s make it a priority as we go through Lent to examine our hearts. Let’s seek to please Him by truly teaching to our children, by word and example, how to give thanks for everything.

Suzi Ciliberti works for Christar, a Missions Agency that plants churches among least-reached Asians worldwide. She served in Japan for two years as a single missionary and another nine with her husband and two children, then the family returned to the states. She and her husband have been serving in the US Mobilization Center since 2000. As a part of the Member Care Department, Suzi is consultant to families with children. She has been working as a children’s teacher since she was 17 and began her training under Child Evangelism Fellowship. She has taught in the church, as a school teacher for two years in a Christian elementary school, and as a speaker for adults training to work with children. She has also trained children, who are a part of families that work overseas, in their identity in Christ. She brings 44 years of teaching experience to her work. She loves creative writing as well as teaching and has found great fulfillment in combining the two as she blogs for Heartprints. She finds it a great privilege and joy to serve the Lord and His people. One of her favorite verses is Deuteronomy 4:10b, "Gather the people to Me, and I will let them hear My words, that they may learn to fear Me all the days they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children."

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