How Do I Teach Thankfulness?

{I shared a post with this title for the first time on November 25, 2013, when I was writing from a Blogger website and posting articles to my personal Facebook profile. It was the first time I wrote a blog and thought, "I more than like writing. I love writing." Today I'm grateful for small beginnings. Also, I intensely edited the original post into today's article because there's no need to show up to Thanksgiving 2017 in your 2006 prom dress. This week's series: #Thanksgiving}

{I shared a post with this title for the first time on November 25, 2013, when I was writing from a Blogger website and posting articles to my personal Facebook profile. It was the first time I wrote a blog and thought, "I more than like writing. I love writing." Today I'm grateful for small beginnings. Also, I intensely edited the original post into today's article because there's no need to show up to Thanksgiving 2017 in your 2006 prom dress. This week's series: #Thanksgiving}

"How do you teach your kids to be thankful?" my friend asked me four years ago.

And after four years of motherhood I still think: Great question.

It's hard enough to teach the politeness of consistently saying "please" and "thank you."

I know, because I remember taking our daughter to the movie theater for a special day out when she was three. After a fantastic time watching Beauty and the Beast, I thought I would feel the gratitude spilling over in the car through giggly conversation about how much we enjoyed the film and the sour candy.

But our daughter had a meltdown in the backseat instead. I had told her no when she told me she wanted more candy. There was kicking and screaming and gnashing of teeth. Part of me was slightly impressed at how much ruckus the small body of a child could make when she didn’t get her way. The other, much larger part of me was boiling at her ingratitude.

I resisted the temptation to pull out my receipts and show her the numbers: $7.50 for a ticket and $15.11 for two bags of candy and a medium cherry cola. I planned $22.61 worth of quality time for the two of us, and this is the thanks I get?

{It is an interesting phenomenon to open my mouth and hear the words of my mother pour out from yesteryear.}

Thankfulness is something much deeper than being polite, and I've found it's closely related to contentment.

It's not only saying, Thank you, Lord, for all you've given me.

But also, Lord, what I have is enough.

And even more importantly, Lord, what I have is Yours.

Yet, the question remains: how do we teach this to our children? 

Example isn’t another way to teach, it’s the only way to teach.
— Albert Einstein

As the mom of a spicy child, I know I can't force an attitude of thankfulness on any of my children. And as a recovering perfectionist, I know I won't faultlessly model gratitude either.

Yet, I know my small children are paying attention. They're watching, soaking up, and copying - not just the words that the adults in their lives say, but the things we do too. Sometimes our daughter has a difficult time seeing what has already been placed in her hands instead of crying, “But I very, very, very want more!” However, when I examine my own hands that have been filled to overflowing, my heart has often lurked back to the same dissatisfaction.

But I want more.

Which is why today I'm self-examining if I'm contentedly following Christ as an example to the young children walking beside me:

Do I begin prayer with a lot of thank you's? 

Do I give generously when opportunities arise?

Do I humbly receive when others offer?

Do I note God's provision, even during seasons of drought and storm?

Do I joyfully set aside a portion of my income to give back to the church?

Do I say "please" and "thank you" when I'm in public?

Do I seek positive attributes in other people more than I gossip about them?

Do I resist the temptation to complain, even when I don't get the best or the most?

Do I honestly admit my mistakes and praise God for His grace?

Do I thank God for who He is, even when I falter or fail? 

These are questions wrapped in prayers for my own heart and the tender hearts of my children.

The thanks I get from my daughter might not scope the depth of what I have given her, but so is the thanks I often give – or neglect to give – the Lord for all He has given me.

If thankfulness is an attitude displayed in my words and actions, I truly pray my children will see me genuinely say with my life: "Thank you, Jesus. For everything."

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. {Colossians 3:15-17}

Grace and peace,

Kendra