Four Simple Ways to Cultivate a Thankful Heart in Your Children

Gratitude Praise Prayer Thanksgiving

By Anne Metz

The Bible tells us to “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Not only that, but the Bible reminds us to be thankful over 150 times! This is a perfect time of year to cultivate thankful hearts in our children. Here are four simple ways to do just that.

1. Model Gratitude

Model gratitude for your children so they can learn from you. You may be praying prayers of thanksgiving in private, or feel awed by a beautiful sunset, but unless you speak these words out loud, your children will have no idea. Make it a habit to voice your thankfulness. Thank God out loud for all your blessings, great and small. From, “I’m so grateful Daddy cooked us a delicious meal,” to, “I am so thankful that you are my child,” modeling gratitude will help your children learn just how to do it.

2. Make it a Habit

Don’t save gratitude just for Thanksgiving. Add it to your daily routine. A simple way to start is by saying grace before each meal. Many families go around the table before Thanksgiving dinner and say what they are grateful for. Could you incorporate this tradition into your everyday dinners? Another way to include thankfulness into your daily routine is to list your blessings at bedtime, or write them down each day in a family prayer journal. Find a time that works best for your family to add in some gratitude. Don’t let a day go by without remembering your blessings.

3. Make it Fun

A sure way to engage your kids in any activity is to make it fun!

  • Grab a pumpkin and some markers and write your gratitude list right on the pumpkin. For kids who can’t write yet, let them draw pictures.
  • Buy a large poster board and try to fill in the whole poster with things you are grateful for without repeating anything.
  • Send thank-you notes and pictures to relatives and friends letting them know just how much you appreciate them.
  • Use your fingers and toes! For each hand and foot, come up with five things you are thankful for in four different categories: People, Places, Things in the House, and the most challenging one: Things You Can’t See. Change up the categories each day. Here are a few more examples: Things at School, Animals, Things in Nature, Toys, etc.. 

4. Thank God in Prayer

“Every perfect gift is from above” (James 1:17). Teach your children that all our blessings come from God, and it is right to thank Him for the gifts He gives us. This is also a good time to teach your children that there are different types of prayer - Prayers of Thanksgiving are just one of many! It’s easy to turn a gratitude list into a prayer; just offer it up to God. Instead of writing down “my bike, good food, my friends,” have your children write or say, “Thank you God for my bike, good food, and my friends.”

The more time we take thanking God for our gifts, the more we will see and appreciate how truly blessed we are. Over time, this attitude of gratitude will be engrained naturally into our family’s daily routine. Then, our children will have a beautiful reminder of their blessings for a lifetime. 

Anne Metz works part-time freelance writing and working her digital marketing magic at Growing Catholics.

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