Cultivating Gratitude in the Hearts of Your Children

According to the dictionary, cultivate means to foster growth, improve care, or to further encourage.  Doesn’t this sound like something we should be doing as women? But, what should we be cultivating?

As a mom of young boys, there are several things that I wish to cultivate in their little hearts.  I want to cultivate a love for books, a love for food, a love for people, a love for travel and being outside, and a love for Jesus.  And, especially in November, I want to cultivate in them a deep gratitude.

So, what are some ways we can cultivate gratitude in the lives of our children?

  1. Encourage them to say thank you when they receive something.  No matter what it is. They may not always like what they have just received, but they need to learn to say thank you for it.  And hopefully the act of saying thank you will then start to turn their hearts into grateful hearts.
  2. Get them in the habit of writing thank you cards.  Even before they can write, you can have them draw pictures or color something to send in a thank you card. I used to be better at this than I am now.  Now it seems like we run on the tyranny of the urgent, or the urgent temper tantrum. I usually forget, honestly. But, we can remember and encourage them to do this after receiving a gift.
  3. Say grace before each meal.  Not the trite prayers that we often say, but maybe before each meal ask them what they are thankful today.  Then, express that to the one who gives us all things by His good hand. There is also a new book of liturgies, Every Moment Holy, which has prayers that you can pray before each meal, and so many more.  I have heard that borrowed prayers can greatly enhance your own prayer life.
  4. Interest them in the Gospel.  Remind them that there is nothing they have that didn’t come from God and through Jesus Christ.  Philippians 4 and Romans 8 are great places to start, Psalm 96 – so many ways you can teach your children about this! You can do this by reading books like the Jesus Storybook Bible or use New City Catechism (a great app to use during family worship time) or listen to music around the house like the Getty Family Hymns album.
  5. As my boys have gotten older, I want to encourage them to write their own gratitude lists.  I still would need to help them spell some of the words, but you could have them draw pictures of things they are thankful for or keep a list on the fridge, or talk about their thanks at meal times.  I know in our family it would be Halloween candy, dinosaurs, books, and Ryan (a Youtube show). Those would be the things they are thankful for right now.
  6. You can sing your thanks and teach them to do the same.  In our family, we sing a lot! And we wish we did it more.  But, even this morning I was singing O Lord, My Rock and my Redeemer and Jesus is Mine with my older son in the car.  Those were deep rich hymns of the gospel that had me weeping as I was driving down Riverwatch. I want him to hear the Gospel and have a grateful heart in turn.

In all of these things, we can build habits and tasks, but only God can change their hearts.  Ultimately, we need to pray that God would give them a heart full of gratitude and one pouring over in praise to Him.

“But thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!”

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