Tuesday, November 26, 2013

How to Raise Thankful Children?

It almost never fails that when Keith and I let our kids do something special that they may not normally be able to do like...

stay up a little later to watch the basketball game,

play a game of Ticket To Ride on my phone,

pick out a candy bar at the grocery store checkout,

or play a game of Mario Kart on the Wii...

they end up grumbling or whining.

 Keith and I know that a huge part of giving is not expecting something in return.  However, when we give our kids a special opportunity we can't help but expect some amount of gratitude from them.  A simple thank you.  Or how about a tantrum/break-down free transition to whatever comes after the something special.
Once in awhile our expectations are fulfilled and we hear or see a glimpse of gratitude.  But honestly, most of the time, selfish, discontented, and entitled attitudes squelch our hopes for signs of gratitude.  

Do your children's attitudes sometimes wreak of selfishness, discontentment, and entitlement?  

Do your children grumble and whine more than they say, "thank you?"  If your answer is yes, then we are in this together.

I've determined that showing gratitude or being thankful doesn't come naturally to our flesh.  It definitely doesn't come naturally to me.  How about you?

Knowing we aren't innately thankful, it shouldn't come as a surprise to Keith and I that our children's hearts aren't consistently thankful.

A huge question that Keith and I ask ourselves often is this:  How can we teach our children to have thankful hearts?

Maybe if we expose them to those who are less fortunate, they will appreciate their blessings?

Maybe if we make sure they always have wants (not giving them everything they ask for), they will be extra thankful when we do give them something they want?

Maybe if we make them work for what they have, they won't take it (or us) for granted?

Maybe if they make a list of all the things they have to be thankful for, they won't forget them.

While all these things are definitely worth the effort, unfortunately they may never evoke the heart response we are looking for.  Why? 

Because we can't necessarily learn to be thankful, we must choose to be thankful.

And the discipline of choosing to be thankful only develops when we love Jesus more than we love ourselves.  Because when we love Jesus with all our heart, and with all our mind, and with all our soul our eyes are opened to all that we have to be thankful for.  His grace.  His kindness.  His faithfulness.  His tender loving care.  His provisions.  His blessings.  His love.

"Through Him (Jesus) then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name." Hebrews 13:15 NASB

Loving Jesus motivates a humble response of worship to Him in which we regularly, in all circumstances, offer up sacrifices of praise. (1 Thessalonians 5:18)  And as we lift up to Him words of thanks those mountains of pride, anger, and selfishness are made low.

This truth rings true in my own life.  Having Jesus in my life enables me to see others & circumstances through His eyes.  For example, yesterday evening I took all three kids to the grocery store.  The traffic getting there was horrible and the traffic inside the store was crazy.  My kids were restless and wound up.  I had a list a mile long.  And we were all hungry before we even got there.  Had I let myself, I could have grumbled about a lot of things.  But instead, because of Jesus, I just kept choosing to be thankful for His financial provisions which allowed me to be there in the first place.  With a thankful heart, I lifted Him up with my thoughts & words and He made low everything else.  Thank You Jesus!

Though my heart's response isn't always one of gratitude, my love for Jesus does regularly open my eyes to His abundant blessings in my life AND thus, I choose gratitude above grumbling often.


So as I put my kids to bed last night hearing them grumble and complain about ridiculously stupid things, I knew I needed to take time this week to pray for their relationship with Jesus.

Jesus,
I pray that my children would grow more & more AND deeper & deeper in love with You.  I pray that each of them would seek You with all his/her heart, with all his/her mind, and with all his/her soul.  And as they do, may their eyes be opened to all that You've given and blessed them with; all that they have to be thankful for.  May this new sight evoke a humble response of worship to You in which they regularly, in all circumstances, offer up a sacrifice of praise and thanks to You.  And as they lift up to You words of thanks would you make low those sins of the heart like pride.  Above all things may my children, because of their love for You, choose thankfulness over grumbling and whining.  Even in their youth Lord Jesus! 

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