We have been entrusted by God to teach our kids in every aspect of life. And that includes being Thankful and Grateful. Two things that seem to go against everything in a child’s mind. Now I’m not sure if they are just born with this (really, I don’t think they are) or if they just pick it up from various places, but for whatever reason kids can be completely selfish.
So, how can we change that behavior? Well, first off it would be best if we started teaching them while they were young. But, when that hasn’t happened or this issue has somehow snuck into our kids’ lives, what do we do? How can we “reverse” these negative attitudes?
1. Start with Scripture. If you’ve taught your kids (like we have and I’m sure most of you have too) that the Bible is all Truth then they can’t argue with it (like they do with their parents). Teaching them what God’s Word says about the subject may help open their eyes or at least their minds.
2. Write it out. Having your kids write “Thank You” notes for gifts they receive (even at Christmas and their Birthdays) helps them realize gifts are truly a gift. Not something they deserve or have a right to.
Just this week we had our kids make “Thank You” cards for some people who came and mowed our yard for Daddy. Daddy (aka The Hubster) has been sick and diagnosed with allergy-induced asthma, which hindered his outdoor working abilities. We were so grateful that a man and his son came to the rescue!
3. Showing Appreciation – sometimes all it takes is making something just to show your appreciation. In addition to the “Thank You” notes we made for our mowers, I made a batch of no-bake cookies for them to take home that day. I’ve made a meal for families before and asked my oldest to either help make it and/or deliver it. Seeing the sincere appreciation on their faces as you deliver an unexpected meal or treat is priceless in this lesson.
4. Operation Clean-out – when our Mister Bull (our oldest) has become too selfish or overly concerned with the games he has or what others have that he doesn’t, we take measures. Some may say they’re drastic, but nevertheless it gets our point across while teaching him some humility.
We simply take him into his room and start with a bin of toys and clean it out. And I mean, clean. We make difficult decisions and ask him to get rid of toys for those kids who might not have any. Once we delivered toys and stuffed animals to the DHS shelter in town. I explained to Mister Bull what was so different about this shelter and he was actually very saddened for the kids and surprised at how many lived there. He had a difficult time letting go of some toys, but was happy to do it after we went and delivered them. It really did make an impact on his little heart. He really is such a sweetheart we just have to keep him in check! I mean, he is only seven years old!
5. Cut out the gifts – now this may sound harsh, but we have found it extremely helpful. We do celebrate their birthdays and they get one BIG gift from Mom and Dad. We don’t go overboard on their parties, just family. We have homemade cakes or cupcakes decorated by Mom. No decorations unless we have things in the house that match the “theme” of the party. The only exception for birthdays is the ONE year party. That is usually a little bigger deal, but still pretty laid back.
Now Christmas is where we’ve cut things out. We saw early on how much Mister Bull came to expect presents on Christmas. Even to the point that he would count them. That’s when we drew the line and said, no more. So the past 2 years our family has done something a little different. Everyone’s name is put in a hat and each person draws a name. Then everyone gets $5 to spend (including tax) how they would like. You can go to the $1 store and buy 4 things or the $1 bins at Wal-Mart have some fun toys for the kids. OR you could buy supplies to make something for your person. Whatever you want to do with that $5 is up to you. There is no BIG gift waiting under the tree for our kids and we do not do “Santa”. That was just our decision. I realize if you have already done this with your kids for years it’s probably difficult to stop until they know. But, if your kids are young its easy not to start or just quietly phase it out.
In addition to the $5 gift, we plan to have everyone write “Thankful for You” letters to their person. (This I heard from a friend of ours and loved the idea.) Last year our kids weren’t old enough to really participate in this part, so we’ve decided to hold off another year or two. But that is another GREAT way to instill thankfulness in your kids. Having to write a letter of why you love them and why you’re thankful for them will definitely put things in perspective.
6. Compassion Child – Whether it’s a Compassion child or a child from World Vision they can teach your kids a lot about gratefulness. We’ve had a Compassion child since we’ve been married. So Mister Bull has grown up knowing about our child, Samuel. And now that he is a old enough to understand Geography a little bit, I use our “child” to show him that area of the world and what Samuel’s life is like. It has been very eye-opening for him. This year I also plan to show him how much money per day it takes to feed and clothe Samuel. We’ve got a concept of money, so I think this will really hit home.
How do you teach your children to be grateful and thankful?
** I know I switched things up a bit and missed the post on money, but I felt this topic was almost a pre-cursor to the money post. So next Tuesday will be Teaching Our Kids about Money. I hope you’ll come back!!
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