by Judy Ness
Above All Things, O God, Grant Me a Grateful Heart.
This saying has been written on my heart for years – and I keep
thinking that someday I will get around to ordering the word-art letters
so I that I can put it over the patio door in our home. With
Thanksgiving approaching, we may individually, or as a family, turn our
thoughts to the many blessings we enjoy.
But how do we teach our children to have an “attitude of gratitude”
all year long? We hardly get the chance to put the Thanksgiving
leftovers away before the media begins to bombard us with the message of
Black Friday, and the number of “shopping days left until Christmas”.
If you are looking for the “reset button” this holiday season, and
want to help your family focus on gratitude now and throughout the year,
here are some ideas:
- Model gratitude yourself – your children will notice! This could be
as simple as sincerely thanking them for helping out with family chores
or recognizing their positive behavior. “Thank you for sharing your toys
your sister,” will not only reinforce the positive behavior, but help
them to notice and appreciate acts of kindness or helpfulness from
- Talk to them about how everything we have – our life, our health,
our family, our material possessions – is a gift from God and is to be
used for His glory. Although it is satisfying to enjoy the fruits of our
hard work, ultimately we need to understand that all good gifts come
from God, and we are merely stewards. This attitude will help us realize
that in times of plenty, or times of want, we should hold material
possessions loosely because true joy comes from our relationship with
our Creator—not material possessions. St. Paul wrote to the church at
Philippi, “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.I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:12-13 NIV
- Instead of asking “How was your day?”, rephrase the question to
“What were you grateful for today?” This helps to focus attention on the
positive, rather than the negative.
- Practice financial stewardship as a family, and teach your children
to allocate a portion of their own money to spend, save, and share.
Thrivent Financial has resources to help parents teach their children
how to manage money and live generously through their Parents, Kids & Money Matters workshops (Learn more at www.thriventfinancial.com)
Allow your children to make decisions about sharing some of their own
money with appropriate causes or charities. Great joy can be found in
- Choose an activity you can do as a family to support someone else
who is in need. Perhaps you might choose to sponsor a child through a
reputable relief organization. More than just giving a monthly donation,
your family can develop a relationship with someone from another
country through letter-writing and exchanging photos. This can help your
children see that the vast majority of the world lives with far fewer
material possessions than what we consider “essential.”
For many years my husband sponsored a young boy from Guatemala
through one such organization. One year we sent a donation of $20 as a
Christmas gift. (Many relief organizations pool birthday and Christmas
gift money for the benefit of everyone, but this particular organization
gave the money directly to the family.) We received a thank-you letter
and a photo of this smiling young man, showing us how he had used his
Christmas gift money – to purchase new clothes and shoes for school,
some school supplies, a sack of flour, and a piece of tin to repair the
leaking roof on their one-room home! What a change in perspective!
- Another activity our grandchildren have enjoyed is packing a
Christmas gift box through Operation Christmas Child. These boxes are
given to needy children throughout the world, along with information
about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This can be a blessing for our
children if they are allowed to choose items to pack in the box, and use
some of their own money to pay for the items (learn more at www.samaritanspurse.org).
- Choose to help out someone in the local community who has a need – and try not to get caught!
Long before we had Food Shelves, each Christmas my mother-in-law
would put together baskets of food for several area families in need. My
husband and his siblings were given the task of leaving the gift on the
doorstep, ringing the doorbell, and running as fast as they could so as
to not be discovered by the family that received the gift. More than
fifty years later, it is one of their most cherished Christmas memories.
- Make an effort to share gifts of time or talent. Let your presence be your present.
Does an elderly neighbor need help with household chores or just need a
friendly visitor? Perhaps a single parent with no other family nearby
would appreciate an afternoon of free babysitting so he or she can run
errands. Often the very best gift we can give a loved one is spending time to build our relationship. You can find more great ideas for restoring the true meaning of Christmas through Advent Conspiracy (adventconspiracy.org).
An attitude of gratitude is something that is not so much “taught” as
it is “caught”. If we want our children to be less entitled and more
grateful, we must, as parents and grandparents practice gratitude in our
own lives. To be certain, we will all face times of suffering,
challenges and sadness in our life. But gratitude can help us shift our
perspective, even in the difficult times, so that we can focus on that
which truly matters.
Judy Ness is a business owner, former teacher, and a passionate
supporter of Genesis Classical Academy in Winnebago, MN. She and her
husband James have 3 adult children and 4 grandchildren. They count
among their blessings the wonderful education that their grandchildren
are receiving at Genesis