Our oldest daughter was just shy of two years old. We sat in my in-laws living room watching her amidst all the boxes, wrapping and bows. It was so much fun to see her having so much fun.
The last present was deposited into her chubby little arms. Her lips puckered pensively, trying to figure out where to open the package first. With one swift pull she ripped paper down the side. And there it was. A beautiful toy, shiny in all it’s newness.
She stared briefly up at us, back down to her new toy, and then this word……...More?
I was baffled. The child had everything her little heart could want. Piled around her were toys, clothes, coloring books and videos.
When she realized that “more” was not forthcoming she expressed herself as any child wanting more, does. She leaned back and pitched an absolute fit! Tears, snot, arms and legs were flying everywhere. It was not a pretty site.
After that year we decided a new strategy was in order. Not only in our gift giving but in the lessons we were (or were not) teaching our daughter. While a fit at two years old is never pretty, I certainly did not want to imagine the same fit at 12.
But it’s not just about teaching our children to be thankful at Thanksgiving time or grateful at Christmas time. It’s about teaching and instilling a spirit of Thankfulness all year long.
So how do we practically do that?
Here are three key ways we have worked with our children over the years to help instill a spirit of thankfulness.
Model Thankfulness – If we want our children to be thankful then we must model thankfulness. Find opportunities throughout the day and week to express things YOU are thankful for. It doesn’t have to be big things, even the smallest expression of thankfulness can be powerful.
Give Opportunities to Express Thankfulness – Give your children opportunities to express thankfulness. We do this in several ways:
Taking turns around the table to share one thing we are thankful for from our day.
While riding in the car asking them to share one thing they are thankful for from their day at school/co-op – Maybe a project went well or a friend encouraged them in some way.
Asking them WHO they are thankful for and why – this helps take the focus off themselves and helps them begin to think of others and the world around them.
Serve Others- Sometimes the greatest lessons in thankfulness is serving others. Something powerful happens when we teach our children to look past themselves and care for those around them, especially those who are going through a difficult or challenging season. Here are some things we have done as a family:
Make a meal for a family or individual walking through a difficult time and delivering it to their home.
Volunteer at your local soup kitchen or food pantry.
There are many ways to help instill thankfulness in our children but ultimately it comes down to us as parents and caregivers. We must lead the way consistently by modeling, giving opportunities and teaching our children to serve others around them.
As we gather around the table this month, let’s commit to making Thanksgiving more than one day on the calendar. Let’s commit to making it an every day celebration of Thankfulness.