There’s a slew of materials out there for “teaching” gratitude, from journals to coloring pages. Thankful leaves on bulletin board trees, and grateful feathers on construction paper turkeys made from the shape of a child’s hand are wonderful visual reminders of what we’re thankful for. But annual craft projects aren’t enough to generate the lifestyle of thankfulness we want our children to experience.
“Thank you, God, for mommy and daddy, and brother and sister, and the dog and the cat, and my toothbrush, and the nightlight, and my teddy bear, and my pillow, and grandma and grandpa, and my fishing pole, and the car, and the hamburgers we got yesterday at McDonald’s, and for my new shoes, and for church, and my Sunday school teacher, and for my pencil, and for the light bulb, and…”
Sometimes I wondered if they were just stalling bedtime, but the Holy Spirit would “shush” me before I said anything. Little ones tend toward thankfulness. Adults tend toward discontent. Somewhere between the toddler years and the teen years, thankfulness and gratitude go the way of blankies and binkies. What can we do to prevent that shift?
An attitude of gratitude must be modeled by parents who practice the art of thankfulness on a daily basis. Mothers and fathers who demonstrate discontent (grumbling, complaining) 364 days a year can’t stir up a little Thanksgiving day magic while they say the blessing and expect their kids to grab hold of it. The real question, and the real key for our families, is whether we will continue that attitude of gratitude while we battle the mall crowds on Black Friday, search out online bargains on Cyber Monday, and scramble through what has become one of the most stressful seasons of the year for many people?
It’s Tuesday. Two days before Thanksgiving. Are you thankful today? Or discontent? Grateful, or grumbling? Which one will you demonstrate while you rush around preparing side dishes, thawing the turkey, getting those last minute ingredients, and cleaning the house?
Years ago I read something about how we should be able to be thankful for anything. Thankful for dirty dishes because you had food to eat. Thankful for heaps of laundry because you had clothes to wear. (At the time I focused really hard on the laundry one… I estimated I was sorting somewhere in the neighborhood of 72 socks every week.)
If I want my children to be thankful, not ingrates, I’ll have to model thankfulness for them throughout the year. Not just on Thanksgiving, not just in times of abundance, not just when I get my way, and not just when things are going well for me personally or my football team wins or my political party is leading the race.
I’d say with the turmoil and trials our economy, our culture, and our country are facing, we’ve got plenty of opportunities to model an attitude of gratitude to our kids throughout the coming year! Say your prayers tonight, children of God, and remember that child’s heart of thanksgiving.