As we embark on the journey of training up our children in the ways of the Lord, one of the character traits we should aim to impart to our kids is thanksgiving. We desire for our kids to develop a genuine heart of gratitude, but this does not usually come naturally or easily. We must be intentional to instill this characteristic in our children.
“In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
The theme of giving thanks is woven throughout the Scriptures. It is clear that thanksgiving is of high importance in the kingdom of God. The following are three keys to help instill a heart of thanksgiving in our children.
Giving thanks is so important! We must see the value of thanksgiving if we are going to practice it and impart it to our children. We enter into God’s presence and draw near to Him with thanksgiving and praise (see Psalm 100:4). Giving thanks helps us to remember the goodness of God and all that He has done for us. When we give thanks, it helps to free us from a self-focused, entitlement mentality. Giving thanks is so important, that being unthankful is actually considered on par with being evil! (See Luke 6:35-36; 2 Timothy 3:1-2; Romans 1:18,21). If we do not have a value for thanksgiving, we will have a hard time passing it on to our kids.
We cannot expect our children to walk in character traits that we do not walk in and model for them. We must first and foremost lead by example. Do our children hear us giving thanks to God? Do they see us consistently modeling a heart of gratitude? Do we give thanks for the little things and big things alike? Are we able to give thanks to God even when things are not going well? All of this is critical! If we are to instill a heart of thanksgiving in our children, we must model it to them.
Take time to offer thanksgiving to God with your children. Don’t only do this around the Thanksgiving holiday, but make it a regular practice. Make thanksgiving a regular part of family worship times. Regularly talk about things you are thankful for, and ask your children to participate. Cultivate a heart of thanksgiving by reminding your children to be thankful toward others (my wife is great at leading our children in writing thank you cards!). When your children complain about something, remind them to be thankful instead.
As any parent knows, instilling a heart of thanksgiving in our children will not happen overnight. But if we will make it a priority, we can begin to see the fruit of this even when our children are young. Make it a point to continually give thanks, and make it a point to cultivate a heart of gratitude in your children. You won’t regret it!