This is the time of year when we think about being thankful. I hate to admit it, but it’s true. When the weather turns cooler and the leaves begin to fall, we remember all of the blessings that we have to be grateful for. We ponder family, friends, memories, and precious times as we gather around the table together.
There is something altogether beautiful about Thanksgiving, but if I’m being honest, that thankfulness we are called to isn’t as frequent as I wish it was. In recent years, I’ve come to realize how inept we are at offering up praise and thanksgiving all year long. We get busy with everyday life and unless something causes pain, we often forget to stop and enjoy the blessings.
As a mom, this is something I long to improve.
I want my kids to gather together and enjoy the fellowship of Thanksgiving, but more importantly, I want them to enjoy the blessing of the practice of giving thanks.
Let’s face it, teaching our children to give thanks is something we all want to be better at. It’s something we know is valuable for helping our children be less entitled and more godly. And it’s something we’d like to do a little more often ourselves.
It often seems like the impossible feat as a parent. Especially in a society that’s full of “gimme, gimme” and “have it your way.” But take heart. It’s not impossible. In fact, it’s rather simple if we just take a few moments to be intentional about it.
Gratitude for Kids Step 1: Model thankfulness
As parents, we know that our children will learn more from watching us live life than they will from listening to our words, which means we must be more intentional about how we model thankfulness.
The Bible calls us to teach as we walk along the way (Deut. 6). This means we are to teach thankfulness in the everyday parts of life. When you see a beautiful sunset, thank God for it. When you get an extra paycheck, thank God for it. If we truly believe that God is at work in every good thing (James 1:17) then we will truly offer up thanks for every single thing in life.
Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. I Thessalonians 5:18
Yes, God said every single thing. The good things, the everyday things, and even the hard things. Well, especially the hard things. If we believe that God’s Word is true then we must learn to be thankful even in the hard things. Modeling this for our kids will truly change who they are!
My friend Debby is such an amazing example of this. She literally is the most thankful person I’ve ever known. Gratitude literally oozes out of her uncontrollably. She is thankful for every single possible thing. While it may have seemed excessive to me at first, her constant thankfulness was a lifeline for me when life got turned upside down.
When I met her mom several years after we became friends, I learned one of the most beautiful life lessons. Debby wasn’t the most thankful person I had ever met. Her mom was! She had clearly modeled a lifestyle of thanksgiving and her daughter knew no other way.
I want to be like Debby’s mom!
Find Excellent Role Models for Your Kids
In addition to modeling it yourself, if you want thankful kids, find thankful role models for them. This could be people at your church, friends, or family members. It also might be people they meet in the Bible. Don’t underestimate the power of character studies to help you see biblical people as role models for your kids!
A supplement to the Bible would be missionary stories such as Corrie Ten Boon, George Muller or Hudson Taylor. I like these stories because they offer great value in helping children understand how much they really do have. This is also a great way to demonstrate thankfulness in hard situations. The biographies of missionaries allow children to experience real life difficulties and watch as the missionaries thank God even for the worst of circumstances. For deeper study of the lives of missionaries, check out To Every Nation.
Gratitude for Kids Step 2: Record thankfulness
Why do we write down a shopping list before we head out to the store? We want to remember all the items we need to purchase.
This is a practice we should utilize for teaching thankfulness to our children (and ourselves). There are several occasions in the Bible where the children of Israel were guilty of great sin simply because they did not remember the great things God had done for them. We need to be very careful not to fall into that trap ourselves.
Thankfulness for what God has granted will guard us from sin, help us live a more godly life, and draw us closer to God.
Gratitude Journals for Kids
There are so many different ways to keep a list. Perhaps my favorite is a family prayer journal. This is the place where we can record the many blessings that God has given us as well as our prayer requests as a family. Not only does this practice model great habits for our children, it serves as an amazing family heirloom.
Last year, we also started keeping individual gratitude journals for kids. The kids loved having their own lists. I created a simple little printable to help them categorize things they were thankful for. This made it much easier to come up with new things to write down. (This printable is available as a free download here.)
Gratitude for Kids Step 3: Teach thankfulness
It’s funny how we often miss this, but intentional teaching is a requirement of all good parenting. We cannot expect our children to know why or how to do something we have never taught them.
We need to teach them exactly what to be thankful for and the Bible has all of those answers. It says God is great and all of his promises are true. It also says God created us, adopted us, forgives us, and works everything for our good. If we truly believe that, it’s difficult not to overflow with thanksgiving, isn’t it?
Contentment Bible Study
To help my kids with this, I wrote a simple Bible study teaching the importance of contentment. The impact of studying God’s perspective on this topic has been incredible for our family. Click below to learn more.
Thanksgiving Hymn Study
We also spend the early weeks in November working through, Still Singing, a hymn study teaching the stories behind the lyrics and the Scripture behind the story. It’s a great way to grow thankfulness as a family as we cover several beloved thanksgiving hymns: “Great is Thy Faithfulness,” “The Doxology” and “Count Your Blessings.”
We’ve also got a fun puzzle of the Doxology in our holiday printable pack found here. We’ve used this as a Thanksgiving day activity to keep the kiddos busy, but it’s fun any time of the year!
Another great way to encourage thankfulness is through reading great literature. I love thought-provoking read-alouds, such as missionary biographies, just as much as the beautiful picture books my kids can pick up on their own.
There is absolutely nothing better than sitting in mom's lap or snuggling close for a precious story. These books will create memories and warm your hearts.
I pray that you are encouraged to teach thankfulness not just this month, but all year long. With a little bit of intentionality, gratefulness will be the tone of your family every day!