If you turn on your television at any point during the day, it is easy to see that our world is very focused on materialism and less on being content and thankful. My kids can hardly watch 30 minutes of SpongeBob without being bombarded with commercials telling them that they need the latest and greatest gadget, gizmo, or toy in order to be happy. My kids fall for it hook, line, and sinker. I can see seeds of entitlement sprouting in the hearts of my children every time we walk down the toy aisle in a store. It doesn’t matter if they have five of the same toy, they want more. So how do we teach our children to be grateful for what they already have?
Raising children who feel entitled and unthankful is one of my greatest fears as a parent. I want them to grow up and be happy and thankful for the blessings in their life. This year I want to emphasis thankfulness with my children. We haven’t always done this in the past, and now that my children are a little older and can grasp the concept more, I want to focus less on materialism and more on being thankful for what we have been given. Thanksgiving and the rest of the holiday season is a great time to start focusing on thankfulness; however this is something that I want to continue throughout the rest of the year as well.
Here are some of the ways my family plans on encouraging thankfulness in the hearts of our children:
1. We’re going to stress the importance of good stewardship of what we already have – Our kids are very hard on their toys. They play too rough with their toys and the toys end up mangled and broken. Why? Because the kids know if the toys get broken they will simply be replaced with new ones. Not anymore! Not replacing all of their broken toys may sound harsh, but I fear that my children are starting to feel entitled. They do not take care of what they already have, and they fully expect me to replace toys that they have abused. Toys are a privilege that many children around the world do not have, and I want my children to learn to take care of their belongings and be thankful for what they have been given.
2. We will focus on people instead of material items – We made these “Thankful Turkeys”. On each of the turkey’s feathers we listed a person that we are thankful for, and we talked about why we are thankful for them. It was so precious to see my kids list their sweet friend’s names and talk about the importance of their friendship.
3. We will let them give back – This goes hand-in-hand with number 3, however I think that letting children help others is a great way for them to witness that people are more important than things. Our church is having a toy drive, and this an awesome opportunity for our children to see first hand how helping others in need can make a big impact. We plan on letting them pick out some toys to donate and we will be volunteering to help as a family. We also will be explaining the importance of giving to others in need.
4. We are utilizing online resources – Kids of Integrity has free lesson plans and craft ideas, and they tie everything into a Bible story. They make their lessons easy for children to understand. Their lesson on thankfulness is really great, and focuses on developing an attitude of gratefulness. The Character First Education series is a website that provides curriculum that teaches positive character traits. They have books available for purchase, however they also have many free activities and lessons. The page that talks about gratefulness has free printouts, poems, and a song. Character First Education has been a helpful free resource for us.
5. We are not going crazy with presents at Christmas time – You know what I’ve discovered during my short time as a parent? The more toys my kids are given, the less contentment they feel with what they have. I don’t know why that is, but it seems like when they are given only a few new toys they appreciate them more and have more fun playing with them instead of being overloaded with an abundance of presents and toys to open. We will still have fun at Christmas, and we will emphasize giving rather than receiving.
These are just a few of the ways that my husband and I are trying to encourage thankfulness this holiday season and throughout the rest of this year. I would love to hear any ideas or tips that you have on teaching thankfulness to small children!