We live in a world that constantly informs us that we deserve more, better, and bigger things in order to be happy.

As a mom striving to cultivate a heart of gratitude and contentment in my children, I find myself going against the American grain in a whole lot of ways!

Last time, I talked about the power of emulation in teaching our children to practice thankful speech. Today, I want to share two simple, practical ways we can encourage thankfulness in our children… even in the midst of an entitlement culture.


Verbally Recognize Acts of Service

It’s so easy for we adults to take things and people for granted, and our kids are going to do the same unless we teach them differently.

Learning to verbally recognize acts of service and kindness was a light-bulb moment for me. It just made sense, and I couldn’t believe it took me so long to do it!

Here are a few quick examples of what I’m talking about:

}     My family is seated at the table, and my 7-year passes a dish to his younger brother. I’m quick to acknowledge, “Thank you for serving the salad to Mr C, Bubby.” Generally, “Bubby” grins in response to the affirming words, and “Mr C” echoes, “Thank you, Bubby!”

}     A friend gives my girls a bag of hand-me-down clothes from her daughters. While we’re digging through outfits and trying on clothes, I might say something like, “Wasn’t that so sweet of Mrs. So-and-So to give us all these pretty clothes? She’s so thoughtful!”

}     While I’m helping one of my little boys get dressed in the morning, I notice that he’s wearing a shirt or outfit from one of his grandparents. While I’m buttoning his shirt, I’ll comment, “Hey, didn’t Grandma Smith give you this shirt, Bubby? That was so sweet of her!”

Those examples may sound very simple to you, but I can honestly say that the habit of verbally acknowledging a gift or act of service has gone a long way in helping my young children to recognize when they have been given something, or served through a kind act. Learning to recognize our blessings is the first step toward cultivating gratitude versus an entitlement attitude.

We can help our children recognize their blessings when we recognize and talk about them!


Make or Write Thank You Cards

I’ve heard parents complain about birthday parties or Christmas gifts bringing out the selfish nature in their kids, and I’ve definitely witnessed the same tendency in our own young children. We humans are naturally bent toward selfishness, and the more we get the more we seem to want!

A few years ago, our family was preparing to spend the Christmas holiday with my husband’s parents, who tend to be very generous givers – especially at Christmas time!

I was more or less dreading the coming “gimme gimme” syndrome after my kids spent a few hours unwrapping mountains of gifts from their grandparents! Obviously, shooting down my kids’ enthusiam over receiving lots of presents from Grandma and Grandpa wasn’t a good response, so I decided to take another approach.

I brought a variety of card making supplies with us on the trip to my in-laws, and on Christmas morning, after the commotion of opening gifts had subsided, I gathered my kids at the dining room table.

They had the best time making “thank you” cards for their grandparents, and everyone else who had given Christmas gifts. My in-laws were surprised to receive a card in return for the gifts, and my kids’ thoughts turned outward instead of inward as they focused on the givers rather than just the gifts.

I encourage you to help your children be proactive about giving “thank you” cards in return for holiday and birthday gifts, or other special acts of service. Sending “thank you” notes may be an old fashioned habit, but I believe it’s a powerful tool for expressing gratitude… not to mention, it’s just good etiquette!

If you’re looking for a fun activity to jump start your gratitude project at home, check out these cute Create-a-Card sets from Rainbow Resource: