How to Raise Truly Thankful Kids

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It's that time of year again- when we all count our blessings and gifts and graces. How do you mark November days as a family leading up to Thanksgiving? More importantly, how do you raise truly thankful kids all year long? Today, we're here to support you in doing just that!

When our kids were itty-bitty we were told to teach them a few basic words in sign language, as this helps eliminate frustration and whining in kids who desire to communicate their needs but haven’t developed the language skills to do so.

The four words that were recommended to us were “Please, thank you, all-done and more.”

And I can assuredly say, we found those four signs to be very helpful in the early days.

Looking back however, I do find it comical that “more” was one of the first four words we taught our kids…… because then we spend the rest of our days trying to teach our kids to be thankful for what they have rather than always wanting “more more more.”  Right?

In a world of so much selfishness and entitlement, I’m confident you share my desire to raise thankful children, ones who recognize that everything they are and everything they have is a gift from God.

I want them to live in thankful awareness of the basics they take for granted, the wonderful opportunities they are given,  and the experiences they enjoy. This is what I want—children who are thankful for everything God has given them.

But do you know what I want even more than children who are thankful for what they’ve been given? Children who are thankful for everything God has done for them in Jesus Christ.

I want to foster in our children an overwhelming awareness of God’s grace. I want them to know, more than anything else, that because of God’s great love for us, He sacrificed His one and only Son, for our sin, to rescue us. I want them to know He loves us that much!

The “stuff” pales in comparison to the gift God has given us in Christ.

Therefore, I want our kids to grow up with a thankfulness not merely for the gifts, but for the GIVER of the gifts. Because it is this kind of thankfulness that breeds humility, generosity, and joy.

God exhorts us to give thanks in all circumstances, not because He needs to hear thank you, but because He knows that thankfulness changes the trajectory of our hearts.

The human tendency is to look at everything we don’t have and demand, “MORE!”  Whereas the life we want to model for our children is one that the apostle Paul teaches us about in Philippians 4:8,12:

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things. . . . I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”

Paul teaches us, from firsthand experience, a couple of very important things in these two verses.

First, Paul is telling us that what people allow to occupy their minds will infect their hearts, and will determine their words and actions. So here Paul is telling us to allow the gospel of Jesus Christ to occupy our minds. And second, he is reminding us that contentment is learned, and the secret to contentment is ultimately in union with Christ. Not in stuff.

To know whether we model for our kids the kind of life Paul describes, we can ask ourselves a couple questions:

1.    Do our children see in us a willingness to freely give as we have freely received in Christ, or are we focused on earning more and getting more at any cost?

2.    Do our children see us worshiping the Giver of the gifts, or the gifts He has given?

Indeed, our children are watching and learning thankfulness through us. But, by the grace of God, even in our most unthankful moments, which I can assure you I have plenty of on a daily basis, we need not feel defeated.

When we fail to model thankful lives, we can point our kids to Christ, who gave His life for all of our unthankfulness. Remember?  Even on the very night he was betrayed, Jesus took the bread, gave THANKS, and said, "Take this bread and eat it.  This is my body which is broken for you. Do this to remember me." (1 Cor 11:23-24)

All is truly grace,

Jeannie

www.jeanniecunnion.com

jeannie cunnion

Jeannie Cunnion is a Jesus lover and a grace clinger. She is the author of Parenting the Wholehearted Child, and her passion is encouraging moms to live in the very real freedom of God's unwavering love (a message her own heart needs to hear daily!). Jeannie has a Master’s degree in Social Work and she serves on the board of Raising Boys Ministries. She also serves as the Council Co-Chairman at Trinity Church in Greenwich, CT, where she enjoys leading parenting groups and Bible studies when she isn’t cheering on her three boys at one of their sporting events alongside her husband, Mike. Jeannie would love to connect with you on her website at www.jeanniecunnion.com.