I'll be honest, my kids are not the most grateful people I know. Granted, they are 4 and 5, so they have quite a bit of learning to do. Still, lately, as I see how wasteful they can be, I feel burdened to somehow instill a better since of gratitude for what God has blessed us with.
"And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him." (Col. 3:17, NKJV, bold emphasis mine)
Children aren't born with the ability to be thankful, it is something taught one way or another. If they are deprived of something and then receive it, they understand the appreciation of having something they didn't before--especially if it's something important like food, shelter, even love.
Outside of those more extreme circumstances, though. How do we teach our children to be grateful? How do we get them to see how fortunate they are and appreciate that? I don't pretend to have all the answers, in fact, I'm just beginning to explore this more in depth as I realize just "telling" them isn't working. (Hey, I had to give it a try!)
Here on some ideas I'm working on, some in light of Thanksgiving being right around the corner:
1. Pray. It's amazing what God will help instill in our children when we ask. Pray together. Pray on your own for your children. Work WITH God and it'll be that much easier.
2. Show your kids the difference between what is necessary (food, water, shelter) and what is a privilege (video games, TV, toys). While I don't know that I would go so far as to show them pictures of starving children if they are as young as mine, you can brainstorm ways of showing this. Maybe have them choose a favorite toy to put in a box for a week.
3. Read stories about people who were without, Bible stories especially. Like when God took care of Hannah in the wilderness after she ran from Sarah. Or when David was on the run from Saul. There are many examples in the Bible.
4. Now, my kids are young, so having them help in soup kitchen or something like that makes me a little uncomfortable, but I think volunteering like that is a great opportunity for age-appropriate children. However, there are some other ways to encourage other people. Make Thanksgiving tins (similar to Christmas plates) filled with some yummy treats to drop off with friends and family.
Last week, my girls and I discussed gratitude and started our Thankful Tree. Each day, we write down on a construction paper leaf something we are thankful for (I do it, too!). Then we pray about it. This week we are going to continue the Thankful Tree, but we're discussing the wastefulness. One thing we'll be doing is going around the house to see what ways we can be less wasteful. I'm also thinking a game of store might help them understand that stuff costs money, and you can only spend what you have.
They may not get it right away, but I know I'm planting the seeds. Seeds take time to grow. Hopefully, I'll see the fruit soon. What about you? Any ideas?