Thankfulness: Being Grateful — Not Just at Thanksgiving
Moms and dads throughout time have told their children to say "please" and "thank you" to Grandma for those ugly socks and Aunt Betsy for her jiggly, questionable jello salad, but does teaching your little one to be polite, really teach them to be thankful? Can you really teach kids to be thankful, even grateful?
According to a study from Berkley.edu, "Research has shown that gratitude plays a major role in an adult's well-being and success." But researchers wondered if the same could hold true for children. The findings were fascinating.
Their research showed that "grateful young adolescents (ages 11-13), compared to their less thankful counterparts, are happier overall, more satisfied with their friends, community, school, family, and themselves, and are more able to offer emotional support to others.
Berkley's research also found that teens (ages 14-19) who are grateful and use their strengths to improve their community are more engaged in hobbies and schoolwork. They are less depressed, materialistic, and envious and have higher grades.
Living with an attitude of gratitude is very important! But what can you, as a parent or adult involved in a child's life, do to help them develop thankfulness?
• Be sure to model gratitude in your own life.
You may have heard the saying "Children Learn What They Live," but have you ever read the entire Dorothy Law Nolte saying?
Children Learn What They Live
If a child lives with criticism, he learns to condemn.
If a child lives with hostility, he learns to fight.
If a child lives with ridicule, he learns to be shy.
If a child lives with shame, he learns to feel guilty.
If a child lives with tolerance, he learns to be patient.
If a child lives with encouragement, he learns confidence.
If a child lives with praise, he learns to appreciate.
If a child lives with fairness, he learns justice.
If a child lives with security, he learns to have faith.
If a child lives with approval, he learns to like himself.
If a child lives with acceptance and friendship, he learns to find love in the world.
Nolte reminds us that children's number one influences are the adults in their lives. That's a huge responsibility. The Bible reminds us in Titus 2:7-8, "Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned." Tall order.
• Support your child's passions.
Whether your son or daughter, grandson or granddaughter is passionate about chess or cheerleading, basketball or basket weaving, math or macrame, you can help them achieve and become who God means them to be by offering your love and support while teaching them to be grateful for their successes and failures. Psalm 37:4 says, "Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart."
• Encourage them to reach out to encourage others.
If we teach our children to cherish friendships and relationships, chances are that they will build and maintain friendships in school and as adults. They should be grateful for each person God brings into their lives, whether they are there as a teammate or study buddy. "Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!" Ecclesiastes 4:9-10.
• Spend time with your child and be mindful and fully engaged when with them.
This is tough when surrounded by so many distractions. But…no matter how difficult…PUT THE PHONE DOWN. Engage with them. When you say "thank you" to someone, especially your child, say it and mean it. Look them in the eyes and tell them how grateful you are to be with them. To have time together. We can't always disconnect from work or technology, but it is worth it. "Let each of you look not only to his own interests but also to the interests of others," Philippians 2:4.
• Be thankful for your child's uniqueness.
Maybe you always dreamed that little Johnny would be a star football player or little Little Lizzie would be a ballerina. Instead, Little Johnny loves drawing, and Little Lizzie wants to play baseball. Embrace it. Are you grateful for who they truly are? Who God made them to be? 1 John 2:27 says, "But the anointing that you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But, as his true anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie — just as it has taught you, abide in Him."
It's up to us. It's up to us, as parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, educators, and Sunday School teachers, to teach children not only by our words but by how we live, to be grateful for what they have. Whether it be material things, people who love them, or a beautiful sunny day after a long stretch of gloomy ones, demonstrating gratefulness to children or even within earshot of them will teach them to be thankful to God and practice an attitude of gratitude, not just at Thanksgiving, but all year.
As Paul said in Philippians 4:4, "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice," and we see in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, "Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."
Happy Thanksgiving, All!